There are many Texas residents who still do not appreciate the severity of white collar crimes. If you commit theft by fraud or trickery, that is no less of a crime than walking into a bank with a gun and demanding money. What matters in any kind of theft case is the value of the property you unlawfully appropriated, not the means you employed.
Former Dallas-Area Title Agent Caught Embezzling Millions in Client Funds
A Tarrant County woman recently learned this lesson the hard way. In early January, a Texas judge sentenced her to 10 years in prison after stealing millions of dollars from her own company. And if 10 years sounds harsh, consider she could have spent the rest of her life in state prison.
The defendant owned and operated a title company in Southlake, Texas, just outside of Dallas. In January 2016, a judge granted the state Commissioner of Insurance’s motion to seize the company and place it in the hands of a liquidator. The defendant herself had already fled the state and was arrested shortly thereafter in Illinois.
According to prosecutors, the defendant embezzled approximately $3 million from her now-defunct company’s escrow accounts. Escrow is money given to a title company to hold as a neutral third party to complete a real estate transaction. For example, someone buying a house would give money to a title company to hold until the closing is complete.
But in this case, prosecutors said the defendant used escrow funds received from at least 23 people for her own personal gain. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the defendant’s spending included a $75,000 swimming pool, $12,500 to attend a concert, and $100,000 to fund her wedding. Altogether, prosecutors estimated the defendant stole more than $8.6 million from her clients.
While in custody following her arrest in Illinois, the defendant told her mother that her crimes were “only white collar” and she was unlikely to face any serious jail time. This conversation was recorded by law enforcement and later played in court. Not surprisingly, the judge did not share the defendant’s view of the severity of her crimes.
A grand jury initially indicted the defendant for theft of property valued at $300,000 or more. This is a first-degree felony, the most serious category of criminal offense in Texas short of capital murder. A conviction could have sent the defendant to prison for 99 years. Instead she pleaded guilty to a similar offense known as “misapplication of fiduciary property.” While this is also a first-degree felony, the judge did not sentence the defendant to the maximum of 99 years. Instead, the court imposed a 10-year sentence and ordered the defendant to pay restitution to her victims.
Taking White Collar Crimes Seriously
Never believe, even for a second, that a prosecutor, judge, or jury will dismiss a white collar crime as no big deal. Financial crimes often have just as devastating an impact on their victims as offenses involving physical force. This is why if you are facing any kind of theft or embezzlement charge, you need to work with an experienced Houston white collar crimes defense attorney who will aggressively represent your interests. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City at (281) 280-0100 if you need to speak with a defense attorney right away.