In Oklahoma, embezzlement is a specific type of theft. Falling into the broad categories of fraud and theft, embezzlement occurs when someone is entrusted with someone’s money or property and steals some or all of the money or property for personal gain.
In other words, a person convicted of legal embezzlement has legal access to someone else’s property, but does not legally own the property.
There are a number of different careers where embezzlement may occur. Any professional who handles client funds, such as an accountant, CPA, or attorney, and utilizes funds legally belonging to their clients for personal gain could be found guilty of embezzlement.
Similarly, people who work in financial institutions, such as bank tellers, who have access to other’s funds may also be guilty of embezzlement. Even curriers, such as people who deliver packages for UPS or FedEx, can embezzle property they are entrusted with but do not own.
In Oklahoma, it is also considered embezzlement when someone holds a power of attorney for a relative, or is in charge of managing a trust for a loved one, and utilizes those funds or property for personal gain.
The state recognizes that embezzlement may not involve taking money from only one client. Instead, a professional may be found guilty of embezzling funds from multiple people on a recurring basis.
For example, an accountant may take a small amount of money from each client’s portfolio. Even though the amount taken from each client may be small, the accountant’s actions can be aggregated and considered a single crime.
Penalties for Embezzlement
In Oklahoma, although it is considered a “white-collar crime,” embezzlement is considered a felony because people found guilty of the crime can be punished with imprisonment. However, Oklahoma Statute 21-1451 provides for a wide variety of sentencing, based on the value of the property in question.
The lowest level penalty is when the value of money or property is valued at less than $500. Embezzlement at this level is punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to a year in jail, or both.
If the value of money or property is worth $500 or more, but less than $1,000, penalties include a fine up to $5,000, up to one year in prison, and restitution to the victim.
When the value of money or property was $1,000 or more, but less than $25,000, penalties include a fine up to $5,000, up to five years in jail, and restitution to the victim.
Finally, if the value of money or property is valued at $25,000 or more, penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to 10 years in jail, and restitution to the victim.
If the embezzlement involved the executor of a will, or an administrator of a trust, once the fiduciary is convicted of this crime, in addition to these penalties they are no longer able to any portion of the estate in question.
It’s also important to note that people convicted of embezzlement are subject to other potential penalties beyond their jail sentence, fines, and restitution. These penalties can include:
- Loss of the right to vote,
- Loss of the right to bear a firearm,
- Loss of driver’s or professional licenses, such as a law or medical license, and
- Inability to hold a state job or run for public office.
It can also be much harder for someone convicted of a felony to find a job, as many job applicants are required to disclose their conviction.
Embezzling Public Funds
In addition to misdemeanor and felony embezzlement, Oklahoma imposes additional criminal penalties on public employees and state officers who engage in embezzlement.
Specifically, public employees, including county or state officers, who embezzle public funds will be charged with a felony that is punishable by between one- and ten-years imprisonment. Additionally, public employees will be subject to a fine equal to three times the amount embezzled, and must pay restitution.
Public employees may also face felony charges for fraudulently changing, falsifying, or destroying accounts under Oklahoma Statute § 21-341. Penalties for this felony charge include a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment that can range from one- to twenty-years. People convicted under this statute will be ineligible to hold public office again in the future.
Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney
Embezzlement is a serious charge that should not be taken lightly. If you are facing an embezzlement charge, you need expert legal representation on your side for the best chances of reducing the charges against you.
A felony conviction and jail time can seriously disrupt your career, family, and personal goals. In order to understand your options for defending against embezzlement charges, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.