A Collier County judge sentenced a 52-year-old woman and wife of a Collier County sheriff's deputy to eight years in prison Friday for embezzling more than $250,000 from a former employer.
The woman was the office manager for a Naples company where she apparently wrote 211 fraudulent checks from the business' account between 2005 and 2009.
Her husband received 31 of those checks and claims he knew nothing about what she was doing.
The State Attorney's Office and the Collier County Sheriff's Office economic crimes bureau joint investigation did not reveal any evidence to suggest the man had any dealings with his wife's apparent scheme.
He has not been charged with any crime.
In addition to prison time, the woman was sentenced to 22 years' probation. She must pay back the full $256,746 that she stole from her former boss. Currently, she has not paid back anything.
The judge claims he was forced to impose the eight-year sentence, the maximum under a January plea agreement, because the woman failed to pay back enough of what is owed to the business owner.
The judge said he may reconsider reducing her prison term if her family can pay back a good portion of what is owed within the next 60 days.
Embezzlement charges often result when there appears to be a misappropriation of funds by someone who has access to the company's money including bookkeepers, accountants, treasurers or any other employee with the ability to write checks, make withdrawals and make payments with company funds. Many people find themselves slapped with business fraud charges because of questionable financial transactions made when in a position of trust at a business. Whether intentional or unintentional, embezzlement can occur in a variety of ways:
• Writing Fraudulent Checks to Others
• Pocketing Portions of Cash Deposits
• Fraudulent Use of a Company Credit Card
• Transferring Money from a Business Account to a Personal Account
• Appropriating Business Funds for Personal Use
Embezzlement is classified as a theft crime. Commonly referred to as "employee theft" or "employee fraud," embezzlement charges are often pursued by the federal government. Due to the federal government's inexhaustible resources to thoroughly investigate embezzlement accusations, early intervention by a criminal defense lawyer is essential in order to avoid a criminal conviction. Although embezzlement is classified as a theft crime, it differs from other theft offenses due to the relationship of trust that exists between an employer and an employee. Because of this, employee theft is generally prosecuted quite aggressively.
The Florida Business Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton may be able to help you avoid the penalties and prison sentences associated with embezzlement charges by crafting together a solid defense strategy. The employer does have the option of waiving prosecution if restitution is paid early in the investigation process and if other necessary steps are conducted in a timely manner. Sometimes an out of court settlement or repayment plan can be the best resolution for all parties involved. At Whittel & Melton, we are dedicated to helping those facing embezzlement accusations or charges throughout Florida.
If you or someone you know has been arrested or is under investigation for embezzlement or employee theft, contact the Florida Business Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online or dial us statewide and toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).