In Georgia, embezzlement laws are in place to stop very specific theft actions from occurring. Specifically, it is in relation to those who are in a position of trust or who hold responsibility over assets that are not theirs. This includes employees, legal guardians, accountants, bankers, and others who have fiduciary relationship with the property they are supposed to protect but appropriated instead.
That said, Georgia does not recognize the term “embezzlement”. Rather, they list it as “conversion”, which is a more generalized legal term. Specifically, it means that someone uses or controls someone else’s property without authorization. It must, under Georgia laws, include that the individual lawfully received the property first, which is what sets Georgia conversion apart from common law conversion.
Georgia Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
Under Georgia laws, the valuation of the property will determine the extent of the charge as well as the associated penalty. As such:
- The property’s fair market value will first be established. This is done, in case of tangible property, by asking the supplier of that property or a reasonably similar one, for a quotation of price. This value should be higher than the value of the object when the trial took place or the value of the object when the embezzlement occurred.
- Rental charges for the property if a rental agreement covered it. This should cover the time of when the object was first embezzled to the time at which the property was recovered, if at all.
- The interest on any unpaid or outstanding balance, taking into account the accepted legal rates. This starts at the point of the court order and continues until payment is made in full.
Penalties, as listed under 2010 Georgia Code, TITLE 16 – CRIMES AND OFFENSES, CHAPTER 8 – OFFENSES INVOLVING THEFT, ARTICLE 1 – THEFT, § 16-8-12 – Penalties for violation of Code Sections 16-8-2 through 16-8-9 are:
- A misdemeanor if the value of the property was less than $500.
- A prison sentence of between five and 10 years if the property was valued above $500 or if the victim was a person of 65 years or older.
Georgia Embezzlement Defenses
Under 2010 Georgia Code, TITLE 16 – CRIMES AND OFFENSES, CHAPTER 8 – OFFENSES INVOLVING THEFT, ARTICLE 1 – THEFT, § 16-8-4 – Theft by conversion, a number of elements have to be demonstrated for conversion to be recognized. Without those, the charge cannot be supported. Hence, a good defense lawyer will attempt to cast reasonable doubt on any or all of those elements, being:
- That they lawfully obtained the property or funds from a third party, including rented or leased property.
- That they had an agreement or other recognized form of legal obligation in terms of how they were allowed to use the property in question.
- That they knowingly converted the property or funds for their own personal use while knowing that this would be in violation of the agreement mentioned above.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitation in Georgia for most cases is two years. However, some financial crimes in particular have a four year statute. Misdemeanor cases all have a two year statute of limitations.
Georgia Embezzlement Cases
- Woman pleads guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands from doctors in Macon area. Melissa Dyan Zediker, a 46 year old woman, worked for doctors in Georgia several years ago and had allegedly embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. She has pleaded guilty to 49 charges and has been sentenced to a five year prison sentence and 25 year probation sentence. Additionally, she will have to pay $711,81 in restitution.
- Two men accused of defrauding Georgia County of $100,000. Two men, Bobby Wright and Jamison Goolsby, are accused of having embezzled up to $100,000 from a Georgia county over the course of five years. They were arrested by the Athens-Clark County police. It is alleged that the men cashed checks for products that were not received. They face felony theft by deception charges and could face further chargers as well.
- Vice President of Cox Communications sentenced for embezzlement. Janet West, who was the Cox Communications Vice President, has been sentenced to two years and one month in federal prison for embezzling the company out of millions of dollars. Her actions were found to cause Cox Communications to make payments of a total of $2.4 million to a fictitious third party.
- Church worker from Georgia pleads guilty to embezzlement charges. Sherie Britton, a 44 year old woman from McDonough, has pleaded guilty to embezzling $315,000 from a Georgia church in Clayton County. The name of the church, in Rex, has not been released.
- Omega Psi Phi still has not provided evidence in embezzlement case. An internal embezzlement case was uncovered within the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, one of the oldest and largest fraternities in the country. Dekalb County Police Department investigators have asked the fraternity leaders for evidence, but none have come forward yet. Legal counsel for the fraternity has stated that they would cooperate with the police and supply relevant documents as soon as possible..