Chicago Embezzlement Defense Lawyers
Basically, embezzlement is employee theft. So, it’s not just theft of money or property. It’s also the theft of trust. Prosecutors must prove both these basic elements when these cases go to court. And, they must prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a very difficult task. But state and federal prosecutors are aggressive and up to the task.
We say “state and federal” because, in most cases, embezzlement is both a state and federal crime. In many white-collar criminal cases, either state or federal authorities (usually state authorities) are willing to waive their rights to prosecute the case.
That’s largely because, in many cases, the Fifth Amendment prohibits such dual prosecutions. But embezzlement is different. Because of the aforementioned dual nature of these offenses, many employers take these matters personally. And, they want to set an example.
The victim is not always an employer in these cases. Defendants could also embezzle money or property from charities, churches, or nonprofits. Frequently, the trust level is even higher in non-employer situations. So, the supervision is lower, and the temptation to skim a bit is higher.
The detail-oriented Chicago embezzlement defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman take these complex matters one step at a time. In our experience, that’s the best approach in these cases. At the same time, we never lose sight of the defendant’s overall goals in these cases. Usually, these goals are relatively simple: staying out of jail and avoiding a criminal conviction. In most cases, a number of resolutions are available which accomplish both these objectives.
State and Federal Laws
As mentioned, embezzlement is stealing property and also stealing trust. In general, state laws focus on the property element, and federal laws focus on the trust element.
Most states have separate white-collar crime laws for individual offenses. But Illinois is different. Typically, 720 ILCS 5/16-1 covers both regular theft and most types of white-collar theft, including embezzlement. Authorities may bring charges in several scenarios:
Exerting or Obtaining Unauthorized Control: This subsection usually applies to embezzlement crimes of opportunity, like taking money from the petty cash box. The unauthorized use of a company credit card is another example.
Obtaining Control by Deception: Authorities often use this subsection to prosecute somewhat more advanced crimes, like submitting a false or exaggerated expense report. Paying dummy invoices with company funds is also embezzlement by deception.
Obtaining Control by Threat: This subsection does not come up in embezzlement cases very often. However, the threat is usually subjective. In other words, if the alleged victim felt threatened, these charges could hold up in court.
The “unauthorized use” element is often hard to prove in Illinois embezzlement cases. If the employer, charity, or other alleged victim never explicitly declared a certain use to be off-limits, it’s usually not unauthorized. Additionally, if the property owner ever consents to a certain use, even subtly or indirectly, that consent remains in force until revoked.
As for penalties, embezzlement of government or religious property is always a felony, regardless of the property’s value. Generally, embezzlement of over $500 is a Class 3 felony. Certain enhancements can raise the charges to a Class 2 or even a Class 1 felony.
An unrelated enhancement, the state’s hate crime law, could also apply to some embezzlement cases. 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1 is a typical hate crime law, in that “hate” is not an element of this enhancement. Instead, it applies if the defendant targeted a victim in a protected class. Malice, or lack thereof, is completely irrelevant.
There is no federal criminal code. Therefore, embezzlement laws are spread out in several sections of the United States Code. Some of the more common ones include:
Embezzlement of public property or public records.
Receiving unauthorized public money deposits.
Embezzlement of tools, such as printing devices or stamps, which could be used to counterfeit currency.
Intentional accounting errors.
Embezzlement by a court official.
Failing to properly secure treasury deposits.
Typically, embezzlement of less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor in the federal system. Any greater amount is a felony.
State and Federal Jail Release
Immediate jail release is always a top priority for Chicago embezzlement defense lawyers. Even a day or two of pretrial detention often has severe adverse effects not only on the defendant’s personal and professional life but also on the defendant’s legal case.
State Jail Release
Since embezzlement is a nonviolent crime, a pretrial release is often available in misdemeanor matters, especially if the defendant has no prior criminal record.
Basically, pretrial release, or OR (Own Recognizance) release, reduces a misdemeanor to the level of a traffic ticket, at least for pretrial detention purposes. If the defendant agrees to appear in court to answer the charges, the sheriff releases the defendant from jail. A few other requirements usually apply as well. Additionally, most defendants must pay a small fee.
This option is usually unavailable in felony embezzlement matters or if the defendant has a criminal record. In fact, in many Chicagoland jurisdictions, these defendants are not eligible for pretrial release as a policy matter.
Occasionally, a Chicago embezzlement lawyer can informally advocate before a review board. That advocacy greatly increases the chances of pretrial release in borderline eligibility cases.
Generally, in felony embezzlement matters, jail release involves cash bail payment or a surety bond.
Cash bail is essentially like a rental property security deposit. The defendant deposits money. If the defendant fully complies with all bail conditions, the county refunds most of the money when the case is resolved. Bail amounts vary, generally depending on the defendant’s criminal record, or lack thereof. However, the amount usually starts around $750 in a misdemeanor and $1,500 in a felony.
A surety bond is like an insurance policy. For about a 15% nonrefundable premium, the bonding company assumes the financial risk. If the defendant doesn’t comply with all conditions, the bonding company must pay the cash bail amount.
If the defendant is unable to make a bond, a Chicago embezzlement defense lawyer can schedule a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, the judge considers additional factors, such as the amount of evidence against the defendant and the defendant’s contacts with the community.
Federal Jail Release
The amount of bail is also significantly different in state and federal courts, mostly due to the risks involved. If defendants are convicted in state court, they usually serve their time in a semi-secure facility that is near their homes. But if defendants are convicted in federal court, they usually serve their time in a highly secure facility that’s in another state. That stark possibility prompts many federal criminal defendants to run.
Additionally, federal court bail usually has a lot more conditions than state court bail. Several times a week, most federal defendants must take a drug test, check in with a supervision officer, attend a class, and the list goes on. Technically, if the defendant is one minute late for one appointment, the judge could immediately revoke bail.
Since the risk is higher, surety bond premiums are usually higher. Additionally, the surety must post money or property equal to 150% of the bail amount.
Initial Federal Bail Hearing
Usually, the judge sets bail at an arraignment hearing. The arraignment could be up to seventy-two hours after an arrest. The primary bail factors are the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record.
Moreover, a federal Pretrial Services Officer usually plays a part in this hearing. PSOs usually make at least informal recommendations as to bail amount.
If the defendant can pay the entire bail amount in cash and a personal surety assumes complete financial responsibility, there may be no need for a bail hearing. However, in most cases, a surety bond is a necessity. Very few people have sufficient property to meet the 150% requirement. Even if they did, the financial risk is very high, as mentioned above.
Nebbia Hearings in Federal Bond Cases
Once the defendant lines up a surety bond, the court usually schedules a Nebbia hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to ensure that the defendant did not use money associated with criminal activity to post bond.
Adverse Nebbia hearing results are extremely rare in surety bond cases. These results are extremely common in private surety cases. If there is any hint of surety impropriety, such as a foreign bank account in the surety’s name, federal judges will usually cancel the deal.
State and Federal Resolutions
As mentioned, many alleged embezzlement victims initially feel angry and hurt. But these feelings normally fade. By the time the case goes to court, many alleged embezzlement victims just want their money back. Technically, state and federal prosecutors can proceed with these cases even if the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges. In the criminal law world, an alleged victim is just a witness. However, if the alleged victim is not interested in the case, prosecutors often aren’t too interested either.
As a result, resolutions like pretrial diversion are often available in these cases. If the defendant pays restitution and complies with some other conditions, such as performing community service or attending a self-improvement class, prosecutors dismiss the charges. As a result, the defendant has no conviction record. That’s usually the best possible outcome in these cases.
Connect with an Experienced Cook County Embezzlement Defense Attorney
Federal criminal charges are scary, but a number of successful resolutions are available. For a confidential consultation with an experienced white collar crimes lawyer in Chicago, contact The Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman by calling 312-726-9015. We routinely handle matters in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.
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