Embezzlement is one of the most commonly prosecuted white-collar crimes in America’s state and federal courts.
However, the laws surrounding embezzlement are complex, and those who face these serious charges often lack a full understanding of how they allegedly broke the law.
What Is Embezzlement?
Many who face embezzlement charges wonder, What is embezzlement? Essentially, embezzlement is a property crime involving a breach of trust.
It happens when a person has lawful control over someone else’s assets, but they don’t own those assets.
If they convert those assets over to themselves for their own enrichment, they have likely embezzled the assets. A common example would be employee theft.
Under Ohio embezzlement laws, someone commits this offense if they have possession or control over someone else’s property or money, and they use it for their own enrichment in any of the following ways:
- Without the consent of the property’s owner;
- Beyond the scope under which they are authorized to act;
- By deception;
- By threat; or
- By intimidation.
Embezzlement is a type of theft crime. Thus, the punishment for embezzlement depends, in part, on the value of the property at issue.
Is Embezzlement a Felony?
Depending on the circumstances, embezzlement is either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
Under Ohio Revised Code § 2913.02, if the amount embezzled is less than $1,000, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor.
However, the seriousness of an embezzlement offense increases along with the value of the alleged property:
- $1,000 to $7,499—Fifth-degree felony
- $7,500 to $149,999—Fourth-degree felony
- $150,000 to $749,999—Third-degree felony
- $750,000 to $1,499,999—Second-degree felony
- More than $1.5 million—First-degree felony
In addition, an embezzlement offense committed against a protected class of people becomes a more serious crime.
Under Ohio embezzlement laws, the following are protected classes:
- Elderly people;
- Disabled adults; and
- Active-duty service members and their spouses.
An embezzlement offense against a protected class is at least a felony of the fifth degree.
- $1,000 to $7,499—Fourth-degree felony
- $7,500 to $37,499—Third-degree felony
- $37,500 to $149,999—Second-degree felony
- More than $150,000—First-degree felony
Other Factors in Seriousness Level
There are also other situations in which embezzlement penalties become more serious.
- Embezzlement of a firearm is considered a felony of the third degree;
- Embezzlement of a motor vehicle is a felony of the fourth degree;
- Embezzlement of a dangerous drug is a felony of the fourth degree unless you have a prior conviction for a drug offense, in which case it is a felony of the third degree; and
- Embezzlement of a police dog or horse is a felony of the third degree.
The seriousness levels for embezzlement can be confusing. So it is best to consult with an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney to better understand the allegations against you and the possible punishments you face.
Punishments for Embezzlement
Ohio law provides for ranges of punishment based on the seriousness of the offense.
Below is a list of the various penalties an embezzlement conviction may carry:
- First-degree felony: 3 to 11 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $20,000;
- Second-degree felony: 2 to 8 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $15,000;
- Third-degree felony: 9 to 36 months in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000;
- Fourth-degree felony: 6 to 18 months in prison, plus a fine of up to $5,000; and
- Fifth-degree felony: 6 to 12 months in prison, plus a fine of up to $2,500.
In most cases, a judge has the discretion to sentence a defendant to probation; however, this is not a guarantee.
Typically, judges are more likely to consider probation in lieu of incarceration for those who express remorse for their actions, have a verifiable employment history, and are able to present other mitigating evidence showing that incarceration is not appropriate.
Do You Face Embezzlement Charges in Ohio?
If you or a loved one faces embezzlement charges in Ohio, it is essential that you work with an attorney who has experience handling these complex cases.
At Gounaris Abboud, LPA, our dedicated team of defense lawyers has decades of experience litigating a wide range of white-collar crimes, including embezzlement offenses.
As skilled negotiators, we are often able to resolve cases favorably without the need for a trial.
However, we are also seasoned litigators—meaning we will not hesitate to take your case to trial in front of the judge or jury if the prosecution isn’t willing to fairly resolve the case.
We also make ourselves available 24/7 to answer your questions or discuss your case.