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Misappropriation of Funds

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Embezzlement vs. Misappropriation of Funds

Many people are familiar with the term embezzlement, although few are aware of what misappropriation of funds is. While both offenses hinge on the unlawful use of another person’s assets, usually in a business setting, misappropriation of funds refers to embezzlement of money only and not other forms of property.

Both offenses are considered serious crimes in Florida, so if you have been charged with theft of company assets, it is important to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney in Miami who can help explain your legal options.

Elements of Misappropriation

To be convicted of misappropriating funds, a prosecutor must establish that a defendant:

  • Was entrusted with possession or control of funds belonging to another person, entity, or organization;
  • Knowingly misappropriated the money or took an action that resulted in the misappropriation of funds; and
  • Used the money for his or her own purposes, which can include transferring it to another bank account or refusing to deliver it upon demand by the owner.

While many misappropriation cases are tried in state court, cases involving particularly large sums may also be prosecuted in federal court.

Penalties And Defenses

The penalty for a conviction of misappropriation of funds depends on the amount of money that was allegedly stolen. For instance, those accused of misappropriating more than $100,000 can be charged with a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Someone who allegedly misappropriated less than $100,000 but more than $20,000, on the other hand, can be charged with a second degree felony, which carries the threat of 15 years in prison.

Finally, a person who is convicted of taking less than $20,000 but more than $300 is guilty of a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, while misappropriating lesser amounts is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Defendants may also be required to pay restitution to the plaintiff for the funds that were misappropriated, or agree to a term of probation.

Fortunately, there are a variety of defenses that a defendant can raise, including that he or she:

  • Did not intend to misappropriate the funds, but made a mistake, such as a clerical error;
  • Had a reasonable and good faith belief that he or she had ownership over the funds; or
  • Was given consent by the owner to remove the funds.

However, in Florida, defendants are not permitted to argue that they intended to return the property at a later date.

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The crimes of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds are considered serious offenses and are punishable by imprisonment and thousands of dollars’ worth of fines. Having efficient, experienced, and aggressive legal representation can make all the difference in the success or failure of a case.

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