Embezzlement in Massachusetts is classed as a larceny offense. It means that items were removed from their rightful owner. Usually, no violence is committed, which is why it is classed as a ‘white collar’ crime. It is covered under Massachusetts General Laws Part IV, Title I, Chapter 266.
Massachusetts Laws and Penalties
There are three elements that must be proven in order for an embezzlement charge to stand:
1. The person must have been in a position of trust while getting possession of the property in question.
2. The property must have been converted so that the rightful owner can no longer use it but someone else can.
3. The defendant must have intended to deprive the rightful owners permanently of their property.
In most cases, these crimes are committed within an employer/employee relationship. In the majority of cases, money will have been funneled out of one account and into another. However, they can also be in relation to goods or products.
The punishment for embezzlement is based on larceny convictions. As such, in Massachusetts, the penalty depends on the value of the property. Furthermore, if it is not a first conviction, penalties can be harsher, as outlined under 266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. section 30. As such:
• Property worth less than $250 and first offenses carry fines of between $50 and $600 and/or a prison sentence of between six months and two and a half years.
• Property worth less than $250 and subsequent offenses carry a fine of between $150 and $6000 and/or a prison sentence of between 18 and 30 months.
• Property worth over $250 or firearms carry a fine of up to $25,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to five years.
• Embezzlement of trade secrets carry a fine of up to $25,000 as well as two years to five years in prison.
Special cases are made when the victims are vulnerable people (those over 60 and the disabled). Here, penalties are increased and the defendant will usually also have to pay restitution. This is covered under 266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. section 30(5).
Special cases are also made for State Treasury employees. If they are found guilty of embezzlement, they can be fined up to $2,000 and can face up to life in prison, as stated in 266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. section 50. For City, Town or County officers and employees, the fine can be up to $1,000 as well as prison sentence of up to two years, as described under 266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. section 51. Finally, for bank officers and employees, the fine can be up to $2,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to two and a half years as outlined under 266 Ma. Gen. Laws Ann. section 52.
Massachusetts Embezzlement Defenses
Only a few defenses and pleas exist for embezzlement charges. These include entrapment, lack of intent, good faith belief, expiry of the limitation period, and a plea of nolo contendere.
Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for the crime of embezzlement is six years from the day on which the alleged offense was committed. This is covered under Mass. Gen. Laws c. 277, section 63. It is important to understand that the statute of limitation can be tolled if the defendant is out of state at any point during this statute.
Embezzlement can also be trialed in a tort case, where it is technically called ‘conversion’ rather than embezzlement. Victims of conversion can sue in civil court and the statute of limitations in these tort cases is three years from the ‘date the cause of action accrues’. This is covered under Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 260, section 2A. This potentially could be the date on which the embezzlement was discovered. Alternatively, it could be the date of the latest embezzlement. The date on which the statute starts running, therefore, depends mainly on the specific case.
Massachusetts Embezzlement Cases
• Cities that have been fighting donation boxes suffer a legal loss – Planet Aid, a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts, has over 20,000 donation bins all over the country. They filed a suit against St Johns in Michigan, who had banned donation boxes. The charity claimed this violated their First and Fourth amendment and they won the case. The charity is linked to Mogens Amdi Petersen, who is a fugitive for tax evasion and embezzlement charges.
• Simolaris demands update, board says it’s ‘not their problem’ – It is alleged that John Barranco embezzled funds by wining and dining local school superintendents. Selectman George Simolaris is asking the Attorney General’s Office why the investigation into the embezzlement is taking so long, but they are refusing to comment.
• Ex-Dartmouth selectman convicted for embezzlement – John George, Jr. has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison and $688,000 in restitution for embezzling almost $700,000 from his employer.
• Former funeral director from Massachusetts accused of embezzlement and improperly stored bodies – It is believed the funeral director embezzled as much as $375,000 from his clients.
• Painters bookkeeper Jacqueline Askew pleads guilty to embezzlement – The 35 year old bookkeeper for the Boston International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Council has plead guilty to embezzlement charges after having been indicted earlier this year in June