If charged with embezzlement, a suspect should gather all financial documentation that pertains to the case, if possible. When the charges involve a large sum of money that could result in serious consequences, it might be a good idea to hire a criminal defense attorney who specializes in financial or white collar crime. He or she will likely advise the defendant to make a list of witnesses who could testify if the case goes to court. A competent lawyer typically advises the client not to make any statements about the case outside his or her presence. Compiling a list of other employees who had access to funds and property is another useful tactic.
Documents provide physical evidence of what transpired to cast suspicion on a person charged with embezzlement. Copies of bank statements and deposit slips can show exactly when funds were put into and deducted from bank accounts. Any other financial paperwork, such as credit card statements and receipts, might also be useful to create a paper trail of the employer’s financial activity.
Other relevant documents might include purchase orders handled by the suspect or other employees, and paperwork giving the defendant authorization to spend the employer’s money. This evidence might also show that transactions were done by someone other than the person charged with embezzlement. Any written evidence that shows other employees had access to money or property, or paperwork that could explain discrepancies in account balances, should also be retained.
Evidence against someone charged with embezzlement may be circumstantial or physical evidence. Embezzlement is defined as using funds or property belonging to someone else for personal gain. It represents a violation of trust given to a person to handle assets of a company or individual, and includes access to credit cards. Misusing money or property that belongs to a relative can also be defined as embezzlement.
When a person is charged with embezzlement, it is often helpful to call on witnesses who can testify in his or her defense. These witnesses might be people familiar with the financial flaws in an employer’s accounting system, and their testimony might benefit the defendant. Other witnesses might attest to the defendant’s character and honesty. Supervisors from prior employment, religious leaders, and other prominent public figures sometimes make good witnesses.
A capable defense attorney can work with a person charged with embezzlement to draft defense strategies. The lawyer might also be able to work out a plea bargain agreement that reduces the charges to lesser crimes. In most regions, mental problems, stress, or addiction to drugs or alcohol do not represent viable defenses for embezzlement. A qualified attorney typically explores potential defenses and explains options to the suspect.
Penalties for embezzlement vary by region but commonly include restitution to the victim. The penalties are usually based on the amount of money or property taken without permission. Jail time and fines for crimes committed over a long period of time and which involve substantial sums might be imposed. In some areas, the penalties are enhanced if the victim was elderly or mentally disabled, or if public funds were stolen.