In Indiana, embezzlement occurs when someone “cooks the books”, for instance by adding money to their own account come payday and covering that up. In the majority of states, embezzlement laws are identical to theft laws, with the added fact that an embezzler must have been in a position where they were entrusted with the money that they took. What makes Indiana quite unique, however, is that they charge embezzlement in exactly the same way as theft, meaning that there is no difference between someone who shoplifts a $100 item or someone who embezzles $100 from their employer.
Indiana Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
As in most other states, Indiana does determine the severity of the charge and the associated punishment on the value of the property that was taken. Additionally, if a defendant has a prior history of crimes, this will also be taken into account. Finally, the state does have another unique provision, which is the criminalization of embezzling from the estate of a decedent. In those cases, the defendant must repay the money they embezzled or be incarcerated. Known as estate embezzlement, this covered under Indiana Code § 29-1-13-9. This specifically states that someone who uses the property of someone who has deceased for their personal benefits without this having been confirmed by a personal representative of the decedent, then they have engaged in embezzlement.
Under this statute, embezzlement from an estate leads to a civil liability to the value of the amount that was taken. If the defendant does not answer to repayment requests or refuses to repay following a court order, then the court may imprison them for a term to their discretion.
Theft, meanwhile, is covered under Indiana Code § 35-43-4-1 et seq. This states that anyone who intentionally or knowingly exerts control over someone else’s property without authorization, meaning to deprive that individual of the value or use of the property, commits theft. The level of theft and the associated penalty are determined based on the value of the property. As such:
- If the value was between $750 and $50,000, or if the defendant has a prior criminal conviction, particularly for theft, it is classed as a level 6 felony. This can lead to six months to two and half years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- If the value of the property is higher than $50,000, it is classed as a level 5 felony. This can lead to between one and six years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
It is very important that proper procedures are followed to determine the value of the property that was taken as it will determine the level of the felony offense they will be charged with. Value is determined through:
- The listed fair market value (FMV) at the time of the offense.
- The cost of replacing the property around the time the offense was committed.
Restitution is also often demanded in cases of embezzlement or theft in Indiana.
Indiana Embezzlement Defenses
As with all states, it rests on the prosecution to prove that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, a defense attorney will generally try to dismiss cases based on insufficient evidence or poorly followed procedures. They may also claim that the defendant honestly believed that they had the right to use the property or that they acted under duress.
Indiana Embezzlement Statute of Limitations
Under Ind. Code § 35-41-4-2(a)(1), (a)(2), the statute of limitations is either two years or five years, depending on the severity of the crime. The statute of limitations can be tolled if the defendant is unable to stand trial, for instance because they are out of state or otherwise actively trying to evade justice.
Indiana Embezzlement Cases
- Regional Council of Carpenters members facing embezzlement charges. An ex-member of the Regional Council of Carpenters for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana has pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from the union’s health care fund. Luka Kljajic is the 28th Union member to have been charged with this. So far, $500,000 in restitution is now being paid back into the welfare fund. Kljajic pleaded guilty to submitting false claims and assisting others to do the same. He received around $47,000 and has agreed to reimburse the fund with this.
- Former Indiana bond bank employees charged with embezzling $400,000 in public funds. Two ex-employees of the Local Public Improvement Bond Bank of Indianapolis have been charged with embezzling some $400,000 through insurance fraud and theft. 56 year old Monica Durrett and 54 year old Jacqueline Fitzgerald are alleged to have claimed benefit payouts and to put through ineligible insurance claims for their own personal gain. Employee theft was suspected by the bank’s executive director, after which an investigation was started.
- Bank found not liable for $500,000+ forged checks. Two companies, JMA Rail Products, Inc. and EngineAir, Inc., were embezzled out of over $500,000 by using forged checks. The companies sued the bank for processing these checks, but they have not been able to prove negligence. Under the law, however, the bank did not have a duty of care over the sustained losses as they did not create a statutory obligation or warranty. At the same time, the companies stated that they should have noticed that the banking activity was suspicious. However, the law determined that the duty of care laid with the business, rather than with the bank.
- Employee of housing authority faces embezzlement charges. A former Hammond Housing Authority employee is facing embezzlement theft charges as well as tax evasion. Michelle Seljan has pleaded guilty to these offenses, totally in $633,000. The money was embezzled between 2013 and 2016, while Seljan also misreported her income. Seljan has agreed to reimburse the money and receive a reduced sentence in return.
- Man from Zionsville alleged to have spent $150,000 on his daughter’s wedding, obtaining the money through an $8 million embezzlement fund. John L. Williams, a man from Zionsville, is said to have taken part in an $8 million embezzlement plot, $150,000 of which he spent on his daughter’s wedding. He and five others are facing federal changes in result. Williams, aged 49, is known locally for his extravagant and outlandish lifestyle. Allegedly, he has used the money to purchase eight vehicles, pay for numerous vacations, purchase a personal home, and more. The other defendants include other Zionsville residents, as well as Indianapolis and Detroit residents. Each, if convicted, could face as much as 30 years in prison as well as restitution and fines.