New York Embezzlement Charges & Penalties

In the diverse legal landscape of the United States, embezzlement laws vary significantly from state to state. Embezzlement, often defined as the wrongful appropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer, is taken particularly seriously in many states due to its potential to significantly disrupt public trust and economic stability. This article provides an in-depth look at New York’s stringent embezzlement laws, examining the nuances of its legal framework and the rigorous penalties imposed to deter such financial misconduct.

Embezzlement in New York

Embezzlement in New York is a type of property theft. It happens when a defendant who was entrusted to manage the money or property of another person or entity, steals some or all of those assets for their own personal gain. The key legal aspect in this type of case is that the defendant had legal access to the money or property of another person or entity. They did not have legal ownership of the property.

Embezzlement can happen in many ways. A bank teller who has access to client cash could take the money for her own gain. Or, an officer of a company might embezzle funds that belong to that firm. Another example is a family member stealing the money of a family member they are caring for. See a complete list of federal embezzlement charges.

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that usually carries harsh penalties in New York. Embezzlement usually involves funds or assets being misappropriated, and it is not always clear if you or the accused person had legal access to the funds. This can lead to improper allegations being made against you due to simple mistakes or miscommunication.

Four Factors Required for a New York Embezzlement Conviction

For there to be embezzlement, four things must be present for the prosecutor to convict you:

  1. Fiduciary Relationship: There has to be a financial relationship between you and the victim; this is known as a fiduciary relationship. This means that the victim relied upon you and trusted you to handle funds or property. Typical fiduciary relationships where embezzlement occurs includes between bankers and clients, stock brokers and clients, or employees providing accounting services to a company.
  2. Transfer of Property: You must have gotten the property through this fiduciary relationship and transferred the funds to yourself or a third party. It is not enough that you had access to the funds. You must have used this access to take the property for your own use and purposes.
  3. Intentional Actions: You must have taken intentional actions. If you made a mistake in transferring funds to yourself that belong to your company, and you can prove it was a mistake, this probably is not embezzlement.

New York Laws and Penalties

In New York, embezzlement is punished by how much the property is worth. It can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the value of the funds stolen. Large dollar amounts will be prosecuted as felonies.

  1. First Degree Felony: A defendant in New York who embezzles property or money in the following situations will be charged with a first-degree felony: If the property is worth $1 million or more. Penalties are a fine and up to 25 years in prison.
  2. Second Degree Felony: You will be charged with a second-degree felony if the property is valued at $50,000 or more but less than $1 million. Penalties include a fine and up to 15 years in prison.
  3. Third Degree Felony: You will be charged with a third-degree felony if the property is worth more than $3,000 or less than $50,000. Punishment is a fine and up to 7 years in prison.
  4. Fourth Degree Felony: You will be charged with a fourth-degree felony if the property is worth more than $1,000 or less than $3,000. Punishment is a fine and up to 4 years in prison.
  5. First Degree Misdemeanor: You will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor if the property is worth less than $1,000. Penalties include a fine and up to 1 year in jail.

New York law also states that if you are convicted, you can have your professional licenses suspended. If you are adjudicated guilty for an embezzlement offense, this can result in a professional license suspension, affecting your ability to work in certain fields.

New York Embezzlement Penalties

As in most states, an embezzlement conviction in New York leads to fines and prison time. Most states, including New York, punish embezzlement based upon how much money or property was stolen. Usually, states will list the monetary ranges, as in the New York statutes cited above, with the related fines and jail sentences.

Some states, including New York, list property types that incur specific prison terms and fines. For instance, in New York and some other states, embezzlement involving government funds is one type of property that can be punished harshly.

Embezzlement Defenses

New York embezzlement charges are serious. But fortunately, there are several effective defenses you can use to fight them. Below are the five most common and effective embezzlement defenses:

  1. Show That You Did Not Actually Take the Money: This is a straightforward defense that can be effective. Your defense attorney will attempt to find evidence that you did not take the funds that you were accused of taking.
  2. Show That You Took the Funds for a Legitimate Reason: A common reason for being charged with embezzlement in New York is that a person took money from their company’s bank account. But if you can show that you took the money for legitimate reasons and not for your own gain, this could result in a dismissal of charges. You must show you had business reasons to take the funds that you are accused of embezzling and did not take the money for personal gain.
  3. Not Enough Evidence: If you can show there is not sufficient evidence to prove you committed embezzlement, this can be a very strong defense. Your attorney will attempt to show there is reasonable doubt regarding various aspects of the charges.
  4. No Intent to Commit a Crime: It is impossible to commit embezzlement accidentally. Some people are able to get charges dismissed if they can prove that they thought they were the owners of the money or property.
  5. Duress: If you thought that you or a loved one could suffer harm if you did not take the money, then you might be able to show you acted under duress. This could get you an acquittal. However, what is and is not duress is a complicated matter. It is not thought to be duress if you took the money to provide things for your family. There has to be proof that harm would have come to your family as a direct result of not engaging in embezzlement.

An effective defense attorney can use these defenses in a number of ways. For instance, you might show the judge your bank statements that show there was not a link between business debits and deposits in your own account. Also, obtaining the financial records of the company can show that other people also had access to the funds that are missing. If the defense can create enough doubt that you were responsible for the missing funds, it may be impossible to convict you.

Bank and company records also might show the missing funds were simply put into the incorrect account and were not stolen.

If the attorney cannot get the case dismissed, they may be able to get a plea bargain for a reduced sentence. The attorney may convince the judge that you will pay restitution for any funds still missing. It is possible the court may allow you to not go to jail and incur additional fines. Occasionally, charges may be dropped if you pay restitution.

Statute of Limitations on New York Embezzlement

Embezzlement victims in New York have five years from when the crime occurred to file a civil claim. However, keep in mind that the Discovery Rule in New York allows as long as ten years to file the suit from the date the crime happened to when the embezzlement was not found out until later. If the crime is a felony, the statute of limitations is five years.

Recent New York Embezzlement Cases

Town Left High and Dry After Director Accused of Funneling Funds to New York Mistress

The finance director of a town in Connecticut was arrested for embezzling funds to support a New York mistress to the tune of $2.3 million.

Former Turnberry NY Controller Sentenced in $6 Million Embezzlement

A New York controller received 37 months in prison for embezzling funds to company accounts in New York.

Should New York Allow Resort Casinos? Some Say No Due to Embezzlement Fears

Some New Yorkers do not want resort casinos because of some of the problems associated with them, including problem gambling and embezzlement of funds.

Top Cities in New York for Embezzlement Charges

  • New York City
  • Buffalo
  • Rochester
  • Yonkers
  • Syracuse
  • Albany
  • New Rochelle
  • Mount Vernon
  • Schenectady
  • Utica
  • White Plains
  • Hempstead
  • Niagara Falls
  • Troy
  • Binghamton
  • Freeport
  • Valley Stream
  • Long Beach
  • Rome
  • North Tonawanda

References

  1. 2017 New York Statutes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.leg.state.ny.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0800-0899/0812/Sections/0812.081.html
  2. New York Embezzlement Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-york-law/new-york-embezzlement-laws.html

This article provides a comprehensive overview of New York’s embezzlement laws, the penalties for violations, common defenses, and recent cases, highlighting the state’s rigorous approach to curbing financial misconduct and maintaining public trust.