Embezzling from Your Employer Can Lead to Serious Felony Charges

June 26th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in White Collar, White Collar Crime

White collar theft is treated just as seriously in Texas as any other crime. Embezzling money from your employer, for example, is a type of theft. And if the embezzlement occurs over an extended period of time, you can even be charged with “aggregate theft” for the total value of the money or property that is misappropriated.

Harris County Woman Convicted of Sending Ex-Employer False Invoices

For example, the Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently upheld the conviction of a Harris County woman convicted of embezzling money from her former employer. The defendant in this case, Campbell v. State, worked as an accountant for one company while also running her own tax firm. For the employer, the defendant’s job was to set up new vendor accounts. This required scanning and emailing W-9 forms, which contained tax identification information the vendors needed to pay the employer.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendant asked a co-worker to email her a W-9 form. The employee said the defendant told her she was “having difficulties receiving filed from the company scanner.” The W-9 form in question was for a company identified as “Strong Roots of Texas.”

About a week after the defendant made this request, she abruptly quit her job working for the employer. Several weeks after that, the employer’s accounting manager noticed a particular project–which had been completed the previous year–had “incurred approximately $160,000 in additional expenses” during the time the defendant worked for the company.

The employer conducted an investigation, which revealed several invoices were paid to Strong Roots of Texas. The employer also determined the invoices were uploaded to its computer system by the defendant just before she quit. Additionally, Strong Roots itself was a company owned by the defendant.

Prosecutors eventually charged the defendant with aggregate theft, as well as an additional act of attempted theft after she left her employment. The jury found the defendant guilty of both charges. The trial judge sentenced the defendant to a concurrent sentence of 3 years in jail and 5 years community supervision (probation).

On appeal, the defendant argued there was no “tangible evidence” that directly linked her to the theft. She maintained someone else must have logged into the employer’s network using her credentials to commit the acts of embezzlement. In other words, the defendant claimed she was a victim of identity theft.

The appeals court was not sympathetic to this argument and affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The court noted the defendant’s arguments were mere “speculation,” and it was not the prosecutor’s burden at trial to “exclude every conceivable alternative to a defendant’s guilt.” More to the point, “it is well-established that under Texas law an offense may be proven with circumstantial evidence.”

Speak with a Houston Embezzlement Lawyer Today

If your current or former employer suspects you of embezzlement, you need to take such allegations seriously. Your first step should be to contact a Houston white collar criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston or League City today at (281) 280-0100 if you need to speak with a lawyer right away. 

 

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