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Embezzlement: could an offender face life in Texas prison?

Chapter 31 of Title 7 of the Texas Penal Code can be a difficult read. It's filled with legal terms regarding different forms of theft and how the thefts are committed. That section of the penal code deals with an often complex crime: embezzlement.

It's a white-collar crime in which one person entrusts their money or property to another person to manage. Instead of managing or holding the money or property, the trusted person takes the assets for personal gain. 

An example of embezzlement: a large Dallas company's payroll manager creates fictitious employees, has them paid by the company and then arranges to have access to the funds.

Because the crime involves a violation of trust, Texas law contains harsh penalties for offenders, based in part on the value of the property. 

For instance, if the property has a value of less than $50, an offender could face a fine of up to $500. Listed below are some other possible embezzlement conviction penalties based on property value:

  • Less than $500, but more than $50: up to 180 days in jail; up to $2,000 fine
  • Less than $1,500, but more than $500: a year in jail; fine of up to $4,000
  • Less than $20,000, but more than $1,500: up to two years in jail; fine of up to $10,000 (or both)

The fines and prison time go up from there, including at the very far end of the spectrum, a possible prison sentence of up to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if the property value exceeds $200,000.

Courts will also hand out harsher sentences for those convicted of embezzlement of elderly people, government or nonprofit organizations.

Those who believe they might face embezzlement charges should speak with a criminal defense attorney experienced in defending clients at trial and protecting their interests in negotiations.

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