Missouri Embezzlement Charges & Penalties

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In Missouri, embezzlement, which equates to fraudulent misappropriation, is charged in the same manner as theft, regardless of the type of theft committed. This is listed under the Missouri Revised Statutes (Mo. Rev. Stat.) 570.030. Theft is a very serious crime in Missouri, and even more so when it is committed from a position of trust. When people abuse or misuse their position to illegally take assets from others to further themselves, they face significant charges.

Missouri Embezzlement Laws and Penalties

Under Missouri law, theft is classified as a “non-dangerous” crime. There are different classes or levels involved in it, however, depending on the value of what was stolen. Punishments vary depending on the levels. As such:

  • Theft of property valued at less than $150 is a Class D misdemeanor, punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
  • Theft of property valued between $150 and $750 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
  • Theft of property valued between $750 and $25,000 is a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  • Theft of property valued between $25,000 and $75,000 is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • Theft of property valued between $75,000 and $750,000 is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
  • Theft of property valued over $750,000 is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment.

Missouri Embezzlement Defenses

There are numerous possible defenses to embezzlement. If the person is actually innocent of the crime they have been accused of, a lawyer will always try to determine that. In many cases, defense attorneys will try to determine that the money was embezzled for legitimate purposes, meaning it was not embezzled at all.

Alternatively, they can try to demonstrate that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes, they may also try to demonstrate lack of intent, although this is a very difficult defense in embezzlement cases and one that is notoriously difficult to prove due to the nature of the crime.

Finally, a lawyer may try to demonstrate that the accused acted under duress. This means demonstrating that, had they not committed the embezzlement, they had genuine reason to believe they or someone else would come to significant harm. However, this means implicating a third party in the case.

Missouri Embezzlement Statute of Limitations

In Missouri, statutes of limitations are in place for the protection of defendants. It is believed that, the longer a time period passes between an action and prosecution, the more difficult it becomes to prove innocence. Similarly, Missouri legislators believe that people should not be punished for behaviors long ago in the past. However, if the defendant is accused of a felony crime, their statute of limitations will be longer than if it were a misdemeanor offense.

Additionally, a statute of limitations can be tolled from the date of the offense. For instance, if a crime had not been uncovered or if the defendant is out of state for long periods of time, the clock may not start ticking or it may be tolled until the defendant can face charges. In the state, under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 556.036, the statute of limitations for theft is one year for misdemeanor charges or three years for felony charges.

Most Famous Missouri Embezzlement Cases

Missouri has seen several high-profile embezzlement cases that have captured public attention due to the magnitude of the crimes and the individuals involved. These cases highlight the severity of embezzlement and the significant legal repercussions that can follow.

1. Rita Crundwell Case

Rita Crundwell, the comptroller of Dixon, Illinois, was convicted of embezzling $53 million from the city over two decades. While not exclusively a Missouri case, the investigation had significant ties to Missouri financial institutions, and her scheme involved laundering funds through Missouri banks. Crundwell’s case is one of the largest municipal fraud cases in U.S. history, leading to nearly 20 years in federal prison.

2. St. Louis Public Library Embezzlement

In 2014, a former executive of the St. Louis Public Library was charged with embezzling over $1 million. The defendant used fraudulent invoices and manipulated financial records to siphon funds. The case drew significant media attention, highlighting the vulnerabilities in public institution financial controls. The executive was sentenced to seven years in prison.

3. Missouri State University Embezzlement

A former Missouri State University employee was convicted of embezzling over $1.16 million by falsifying travel expenses and payroll records. This case underscored the need for stringent oversight in educational institutions. The employee received a 10-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay restitution.

4. Kansas City Housing Authority Fraud

In a case involving the Kansas City Housing Authority, an employee was found guilty of embezzling $500,000 through fraudulent housing assistance payments. The case highlighted significant flaws in the housing authority’s oversight mechanisms. The defendant was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

5. Medicaid Fraud in Missouri

In 2017, several healthcare providers in Missouri were charged with embezzling millions from Medicaid through fraudulent billing practices. The case involved complex financial schemes and significant financial losses for the state’s Medicaid program. The primary defendants received sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison.

6. Jefferson City Utility Scam

An employee of a Jefferson City utility company was found guilty of embezzling over $300,000 by manipulating billing records and diverting funds to personal accounts. The case attracted attention due to the sophisticated methods used and the large amount of money stolen. The defendant was sentenced to six years in prison.

The Role of a Missouri Criminal Lawyer for Embezzlement

Embezzlement charges in Missouri can lead to severe penalties, including hefty fines, imprisonment, and long-term reputational damage. The role of a Missouri criminal lawyer is crucial in navigating these serious charges, ensuring the defendant’s rights are protected and building a robust defense strategy.

Case Evaluation and Evidence Review

A Missouri criminal lawyer begins by thoroughly evaluating the case, scrutinizing the prosecution’s evidence, such as financial records and witness statements. By identifying weaknesses or inconsistencies in the evidence, the lawyer can formulate a strategic defense plan tailored to the specifics of the case.

Defense Strategy Development

Developing a customized defense strategy is a key responsibility of a Missouri criminal lawyer. This might involve demonstrating a lack of intent to defraud, proving that the defendant had permission to use the funds, or showing that the accused was wrongly identified. The lawyer will also look for procedural errors during the investigation or prosecution that could lead to a dismissal of charges.

Negotiation and Trial Representation

An experienced Missouri criminal lawyer engages in negotiations with the prosecution, seeking plea deals that could result in reduced charges or lighter sentences. If the case proceeds to trial, the lawyer provides vigorous representation, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and making compelling arguments to the jury.

In summary, a Missouri criminal lawyer plays a vital role in defending against embezzlement charges, from initial case assessment to trial representation, ensuring the best possible outcome for the defendant.

References

  • Missouri Revised Statutes § 570.030: Theft.
  • Missouri Revised Statutes § 556.036: Statute of limitations.
  • “Criminal Law and Procedure: Missouri Practice Series” by John A. Fliter, published by Thomson Reuters.
  • Missouri Court System: Information on criminal cases and court procedures.
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL): Information and resources on criminal defense.
  • Missouri Legal Aid: Resources on fraud defense.