Embezzlement is theft. It usually occurs when a person who has been entrusted with money or other property steals that property or money for their own gain.
Oklahoma law defines embezzlement as the fraudulent appropriation of the property of another, which has been obtained legally, for an unintended use, or the hiding of such money or property with the fraudulent intent to misappropriate it when the property:
- was entrusted to that person’s care for a specific purpose;
- was obtained by a power of attorney being granted for its sale or transfer;
- is controlled for another person’s use;
- is to be used for a public or benevolent purpose;
- is diverted from the purpose for which it was appropriated;
- is collected to pay taxes according to law and a person diverts those monies to their own use;
- is possessed for the purpose of transportation, without regard to whether packages containing the property have been broken;
- consists of crops which are removed by a person without the owner’s or landlord’s consent, and done so to deprive; or
- is not willfully not returned within 10 days after the expiration of the rental agreement which controls that property.
(See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1451.)
In all of these cases, the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. The defendant takes advantage of a position of trust to commit the theft.
This crime occurs in a number of settings, most of which require a person in a position of trust to handle money. Bank tellers, financial officers, business managers, and trust managers are all examples of this type of position.
Defenses to Embezzlement
It is a sufficient defense that the property involved was appropriated in an open and obvious manner, and under a claim of title in good faith, even if the claim is untenable under the law. However, this defense does not excuse the keeping of that property of the claim by the wronged party to be paid for the property. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1459.)
In addition, intending to restore the embezzled property is not a valid defense. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1460.)
However, restoring or returning the embezzled property does allow the court to mitigate the sentence imposed. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1461.)
Penalties for Embezzlement
Punishment depends on the value of the property embezzled.
If the property is worth less than $500, the crime is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
If the property is worth $500 to $999, the crime is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and restitution.
Embezzlement of property worth $1,000 to $24,999 is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and restitution.
If the property is worth $25,000 or more, a defendant could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and restitution.
(See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1451.)
However, if the defendant embezzles public funds in their capacity as a state officer or employee, the defendant could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine three times the amount stolen. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1451.)
Any time you face the possibility of jail time, you want to make sure to get the best help possible. That help is just a phone call away.
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