White Collar Crime Attorney Chester County
Chester County White Collar and Theft Crimes
While non-violent in nature, Chester County white-collar crimes carry severe penalties if you are convicted. They are anything but “victimless” offenses. Individuals and companies in the Philadelphia region stand to lose a great deal of money if they are victimized by fraud or theft-related offenses and are not reluctant to press charges. Our Chester County Criminal practice has the experience and legal knowledge you need if you are facing a Pennsylvania County white-collar crime accusation that stands to end your career and change your life forever.
West Chester White Collar Lawyer
For charges of fraud, embezzlement, forgery, identity theft or any other offense that involves theft by deception, you can turn to the team at Ciccarelli Law Offices to fight for your rights. When you hire a West Chester white collar lawyer at Ciccarelli Law Offices, you are hiring a team of attorneys who pool their resources together to develop the best possible defense strategy for you. In difficult matters like financial crimes, that can make a big difference. Call us today at (610) 692-8700 to set up a consultation.
If you face white collar charges anywhere in the Philadelphia region, including in Chester County, Lancaster County, Delaware County or Montgomery County, you can turn to us. We have offices conveniently located in West Chester, Philadelphia, Kennett Square, Lancaster, Malvern, King of Prussia, Springfield, Radnor and Plymouth Meeting.
Embezzlement is considered a white-collar crime, and is usually committed by those with no prior criminal history. In fact, the percentage of those convicted of embezzlement who had a prior criminal conviction is only about 4 percent. Although the crime of embezzlement is neither new, nor particularly rare, there has been an increase in embezzlement cases over the last two decades. Interestingly, almost two-thirds of those charged with the crime of embezzlement were female in 2010. The three main factors in embezzlement charges are: rationalization, opportunity and pressure.
Why People Take Money
A person who embezzles money is almost always under some type of financial pressure, whether from gambling, too much debt, a drug or alcohol addiction or from living beyond his or her means. What is almost certain is that the person who embezzles needs money for one reason or another. The second factor is opportunity—the person who embezzles money sees a perceived opportunity which can likely be kept secret. Typically, embezzlement involves the creation of fake invoices or transactions, forgery, or the unauthorized issuance of company checks. Finally, there is the rationalization factor. As noted, most of those who commit the crime of embezzlement in their workplace have no criminal past, and are first-time offenders. These people usually rationalize their theft by telling themselves one of the following:
- I’m underpaid, so I deserve the money.
- I’ll pay it back.
- I’m just providing for my family.
- My boss has treated my badly, so I deserve the money.
- This company has so much money, I’m not hurting anyone.
- Everyone else at work takes things, why not me?
Women are more likely to justify their theft in terms of the needs of a spouse or children, while mean who embezzle, do so out of financial need brought on by their own behavior—drugs, cars, impressing others, gambling, etc. Men are also more likely to tell themselves they are only “borrowing” the money. Most of those who take money from their employer are considered a loyal, long-term, trusted employee. While women commit the vast majority of embezzling crimes, they only embezzle about 20 percent of the total money taken in embezzlement crimes.
Men only commit about 20 percent of embezzlement crimes, but take about 80 percent of the money. In other words, when a man embezzles, he is more likely to take much larger amounts than a woman. Women who embezzle are almost always fired, while men, who are typically in higher level positions, may have embezzled millions, yet are much less likely to be fired or charged with a crime. The average age of a person charged with embezzlement is 43, and the average prison sentence for a person convicted of embezzlement is a bit more than four years.
Embezzlement in the State of Pennsylvania
While embezzlement and other white-collar crimes do not rise to the level of crimes like murder and rape, the crime of embezzlement can still bring serious penalties. Because of this, it is extremely important that you have a knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney from the Ciccarelli Law Offices by your side from the time you are charged. Our attorneys have significant levels of experience defending clients for white-collar crimes such as embezzlement. We will immediately begin working on your defense, negotiating with the prosecutor in an attempt to have your charges lowered or dropped. While no single law covers the crime of embezzlement in the state of Pennsylvania, the state’s anti-theft laws cover the offense. These laws make it a crime to unlawfully take property, or to take property using deception or extortion. Theft by deception is the most common type of embezzlement.
Penalties for Embezzlement
If you are convicted of embezzlement, your penalties will depend on the amount stolen, and the type of property. If you are convicted of embezzling money or property worth less than $50, the maximum penalty is up to a year in jail, unless you are accused of stealing services or breaching a fiduciary duty. If you are convicted of embezzling money or property worth more than $50 but less than $200, the maximum penalty is up to two years in jail unless a breach of fiduciary duty is involved. In either of the above situations, if fiduciary duty is breached, you could face up to five years behind bars. Embezzlement of money or property worth more than $2,000 is a felony, carrying a penalty of up to seven years in prison.
How the Prosecutor Must Prove the Crime of Embezzlement
The prosecutor in your case must prove that you took property or money which did not belong to you, and that you did so with intent—that is, you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property. To “deprive” under state law means you engaged in an activity which reduced the value of the property either substantially or completely, or that engaged in an activity which significantly reduced the likelihood the owner would recover the property.
The prosecutor must also show that you obtained the property/money through an agreement, or as a part of your fiduciary duties. As an example, perhaps you were entrusted with the checks at your place of business because you paid the monthly bills. Or, perhaps your employer entrusted you with money for the purpose of financial management or investment. If the prosecutor definitively proves you failed to perform the services or acts you agreed on with your employer, or that you treated the entrusted property as your own, you could be convicted of embezzlement.
Potential Defenses to Charges of Embezzlement
While your exact defense to the charges of embezzlement will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, however the following defenses might be applicable in your case:
- Lack of intent—Your attorney might be able to show facts and circumstances which prove you did not have the intent to misappropriate the embezzled property.
- Entrapment—It would be rare this defense could be used, as it would have to be shown that the owner of the property/money actively urged you to embezzle that property/money.
- Good faith belief—This means you were not aware that the embezzled property belonged to another—you believed, under good faith, that you had a right to the property.
- Expiration of the limitation period—This has to do with the statutes of limitations, which could begin from the time the misappropriate was discovered, from the time you used the misappropriated funds, or from the time you failed to account for funds entrusted to you.
Pennsylvania White Collar Crime Information
- Pennsylvania Fraud Charges
- Other White Collar Charges in Chester County
- Punishment for Southeastern Pennsylvania Financial Crimes
Pennsylvania Fraud Charges
Credit Card Fraud (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4106)
Under Pennsylvania Code, credit cards, debit cards and ATM cards are called “access devices,” and any fraud utilizing them is called “access device fraud.” Under law, it is illegal to:
- Use a forged credit card or debit card;
- Use another person’s card without that person’s consent;
- Use a credit card or debit card that has been revoked or canceled; or
- Forging, assisting in the forgery of or even possessing a counterfeit card.
You are presumed to know that a card is counterfeit if prosecutors can prove you possessed two or more counterfeit cards. You are presumed to know a card has been canceled if prosecutors can prove you attempted to use it seven days after receiving notice of the cancellation.
If the amount you are alleged to have defrauded is less than $50, it is a second degree misdemeanor. If less than $500, it is a first degree misdemeanor. If more, it is a third-degree felony.
Insurance Fraud (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4117)
An accusation of defrauding an insurance company can lead to insurance fraud charges. Pennsylvania’s insurance fraud statute covers covering false claims, filing misleading claims or assisting by filing false statements. It cover homeowner’s insurance, automobile insurance, health insurance or any other type of insurance. It also covers using a false name to try to use another person’s insurance policy.
Most cases of insurance fraud are a third degree felony.
Forgery (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4101)
Forgery accusations involve either altering or fabricating a document for person gain, or to use in another criminal offense. It includes a number of documents, as well as prescriptions.
The grading of a forgery offense depends on what you are alleged to have forged. It is a second degree felony if the forged materials were money, postage, food stamps, government securities, stocks, bonds or anything representing an interest in a company. It is a third degree felony if the forged material was a will, contract, deed or other document that affects legal relations.
Anything else is a first degree misdemeanor.
Identity Theft (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4120)
Possessing or using the identifying information of another person without his or her consent with the intent of furthering any unlawful purpose is identity theft. Each instance of identity theft is counted as a separate offense. Identity theft charges often come along with other fraud charges, and you may face punishment for those, too.
If the amount allegedly defrauded through the identity theft comes to less than $2,000, then it is a first-degree misdemeanor. If any more, it is a third-degree felony. If the victim was 60 or older, the charges go up to a third-degree felony or a second-degree felony.
Other White Collar Charges in Chester County
There is no statutory offense of embezzlement in Pennsylvania code, but the term embezzlement is used to refer to a number of offenses that involve theft when one is entrusted with property, money or anything else of value and misappropriates it. In many settings, this takes place on the job, but it can also take place in volunteer settings.
The type of charge depends on the amount prosecutors can prove you stole. Anything more than $2,000 is a felony.
Bad Checks (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4105)
You could be convicted of this offense if prosecutors can prove you wrote a check knowing there were insufficient funds in your account, unless you pay within 10 days of receiving notice of the check’s refusal. And bad check charge could be in addition to theft charges.
If the check was for less than $200, then it is a summary offense. If between $200 and $500, it is a second degree misdemeanor. If between $500 and $1,000, it is a first degree misdemeanor. Any bad check for more than $75,000 is a third degree felony.
Tampering with Records or Identification (Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 18 § 4104)
It is a first-degree misdemeanor to falsify, destroy, remove or conceal any document, distinguishing mark or brand with the intent of deceiving or injuring someone or concealing some other wrongdoing.
Punishment for Southeastern Pennsylvania Financial Crimes
- Second Degree Felony: Maximum of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine
- Third Degree Felony: Maximum of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine
- First Degree Misdemeanor: Maximum of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine
- Second Degree Misdemeanor: Maximum of two years in jail and a $5,000 fine
- Third Degree Misdemeanor: Maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine
- Summary Offense: Maximum of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine
In many cases, a white collar offense will be accompanied by other charges, like theft. Your West Chester criminal defense attorney can represent you on all charges you face.
The Consequences of White-collar Crimes
We see white-collar crimes being committed in Chester County. Bookkeepers cut checks for themselves. Executives misappropriate funds in their favor. Employees use company credit cards for unauthorized purchases or personal credit cards are stolen and used. Employers abuse workers compensation benefits. Clinics could commit Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
While no guns were drawn and no one was physically hurt, the damage done by a Chester County white-collar crime will get the court’s attention. Restitution for embezzlement, identity theft, or forgery may only be the start. Lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines may follow. Get legal advice now from our Chester County White Collar Crimes lawyers.
Seen an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney
Too much is at stake to give in to the prosecution. An immediate guilty plea is not wise. You need a seasoned defense attorney and former prosecutor who knows how white-collar crime cases are built. Your arrest does not have to lead to a conviction. You have choices, you have options and perhaps most you have rights that we fight to protect.
We make your choice all the clearer fighting for clients throughout Chester County. If you are being investigated or have been arrested for a white-collar crime or property crime anywhere in Chester County, you need to seek an aggressive Pennsylvania defense attorney. Contact us (610) 692-8700 for a free case evaluation.