Embezzlement, no matter how complicated the scheme, is still just a theft. However, because it often involves large amounts of money and requires substantially more investigation, embezzlement cases are assigned to special prosecutorial divisions. In Harris County, there are two sections of the District Attorney’s office that handle large fraud cases – the Major Fraud Division and the Consumer Fraud Division.
If substantial enough, the FBI may also investigate embezzlement cases. They are charged in United States District Court and assigned to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for prosecution. Most of the time, a theft crime in Federal Court will be charged as bank fraud or wire fraud.
A person charged with this crime must take care to retain a law firm with substantial experience in financial crimes. Usually the defense to this crime is hidden in massive amounts of documents. If a lawyer does not know how to interpret and analyze these documents, the defense will be lost. If a lawyer is not knowledgeable and conversant in financial matters, he will not be able to explain his client’s defense to a jury.
Most investigations of embezzlement or employee theft begin internally. The company uncovers suspicious activity during an audit, and either approaches the suspected individual or hires an outside firm to investigate the suspected crime and prepare a report. Usually companies are insured, and this investigation is required in order to make a claim. Further, management is aware of the legal ramifications of a false accusation.
An investigator hired by a company is not a state peace officer, and is not held to the limitations of the Texas and Federal Constitution. They will often approach a suspected employee for an interview, and tell the employee that their conversation is private and only intended to investigate an accounting problem. They might not mention that they are investigating a crime.
We have had cases where an investigator has persuaded the employee to confess to a theft by promising him that the company is only interested in restitution. Once the employee confessed and agreed to a payment plan, the investigator shipped the case off to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
Sometimes an embezzlement scheme is so complicated, a confession is the only way that a prosecution can be initiated. No matter the case, an employee who is accused of this crime should seek representation immediately. On more than one occasion, we have settled accounting discrepancies without charges being filed on our client. It is always better to keep the case out of the District Attorney’s hands than to try and stop the prosecution later.