In Union County, South Carolina, a court clerk in the county’s child support office stole more than $10,000 over five years from the Domestic Relations account.
After an investigation uncovered her crime, she lost her job and was arrested on felony charges and held on a $30,000 bond while awaiting trial.
The Union County court clerk was trusted to handle $10,000 in public funds but instead stole the $10,000 and was charged with embezzlement.
In South Carolina, being charged with embezzlement is a serious crime.
A conviction of embezzlement could alter your entire future—including your job, finances and freedom. Even if you are not convicted of embezzlement, being charged with it could ruin your reputation, making it more difficult to find work in the future.
Consulting with a criminal defense attorney is the first step if you are facing an embezzlement charge(s). Until you can meet with your lawyer, take the time to understand some essential information about embezzlement charges and laws in South Carolina.
The Basics of Embezzlement
Embezzlement is the theft of money or property that is entrusted to you for a particular reason. The money and or property belongs to another party but you are responsible for handling it and have access to it.
For example, in the case of the Union County clerk of court mentioned above, the money she embezzled was from an account meant for child support payments.
SC Code of Laws 16-13-210 explains that it is illegal for a person to embezzle funds or property when he or she is responsible for its:
- Payment or spending
Embezzlement can occur when a person takes a small amount of money over an extended period of time in hope that no one will notice the missing funds. Other times, embezzlers steal large sums of money at once and try to cover it up.
Embezzlement most commonly happens in corporate settings. However, government agencies and small businesses can also be victims of embezzlement.
What the prosecution has to prove:
If you have been charged with embezzlement, the prosecution must prove four conditions in order to convict you:
- You illegally manipulated the resources.
- The victim entrusted you with the money or property.
- You had access to the money or property through an arrangement with the victim.
- You intended to take away the resources permanently from the victim.
Without proof of these elements, you may be charged with a different crime, such as larceny or financial fraud.
Why do you need a lawyer?
In any criminal case, having an experienced attorney by your side is the best way to make sure your rights are protected.
Hiring a lawyer is especially important if you are facing an embezzlement charge(s), as embezzlement cases are not clear-cut. An embezzlement charge will typically involve a lot of debate and an experienced lawyer can help prove your innocence.
Simple human error and or oversight can result in an embezzlement charge. For instance, SC law allows law enforcement to assume that embezzlement has occurred if that person can not provide evidence—such as receipts or invoices—to account for the missing, transferred, or spent money entrusted to their care for safekeeping.
An attorney who has experience with embezzlement cases can analyze your unique situation and find other ways to build a case—even if you do not have receipts or invoices—helping you avoid strict penalties and a tarnished reputation.
Penalties for an Embezzlement Conviction
If you are convicted of embezzlement, the punishments you will receive depend on the value of the embezzled funds.
For example, the fines you will have to pay are in proportion to the amount you embezzled—the more money you took, the higher your fines will be. Additionally, the length of your jail sentence is influenced by how much money you embezzled.
|Charge||Embezzlement Value||Fine||Jail Time||Notes|
|Felony||$10,000 or more||The court decides the amount||Up to 10 years||Both fine and jail time possible|
|Felony||Less than $10,000||The court decides the amount||Up to 5 years||Both fine and jail time possible|
An embezzlement conviction does not just result in fines and jail time. You will also be obligated to pay back all of the money you took, often plus interest.
Another penalty is being ineligible to hold public office in South Carolina. In order to hold office, all embezzled funds must be paid back, plus interest, and the state’s General Assembly must pass a two-thirds vote allowing you to run for office, in spite of your crime.
Get the legal help you need.
Are you facing embezzlement charges and wish to avoid the fines and jail time that come with a conviction?
Our legal team at Kulp & Elliott is here to help you. Tell us about your case, and we will work with you to fight against the charges you are facing. Call 843-853-3310 to schedule a free consultation or complete this form.