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Defending Theft / Embezzlement Cases

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by Brad Koffel

Grand theft is found in Ohio Revised Code 2913.02. If it is business-related, we refer to it as embezzlement. Employees stealing from employers is very common.

When I am contacted by a prospective embezzlement client, I prefer to meet the new client, immediately, in my office. I start all of my embezzlement cases at the end and work backwards. By this I mean, I start with a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) that every judge will have done to see if a client is a candidate for a non-prison term. Every single client, without exception, is chiefly concerned about going to prison.Starting with the PSI allows me to gauge my client's strengths and weaknesses as measured by the Ohio sentencing principles and guidelines found in R.C. 2929.11 and R.C. 2929.12.

Step two is a financial audit of our client's personal and business life. We need to know, in short order, if our client can make full restitution (if, in fact, the client is guilty of the crime). Restitution goes a very long way towards a favorable resolution.

Step three is to try and work out a settlement pre-indictment so the client doesn't get arrested and held for a bond hearing (if the client is still under investigation). Most prosecutor's and detectives in theft cases will follow the wishes of the alleged victim. The sooner the alleged victim can be satisfied, the easier it is to work with a prosecutor and detective.

The final steps are to give a judge reasons why he or she should impose a non-prison term. There is little doubt that most judges despise crimes of fraud, dishonesty, and theft. Finding the reason a client did what they did (other than greed) is helpful.

There are many cases where we need to employ a forensic CPA to dig into the detectives file for issues of doubt and/or actual innocence. Many detectives are not trained to conduct forensic audits and make false assumptions. Identifying these is of paramount importance.

Most of our theft clients have been sentenced to non-prison terms. In fact, most of our clients have never gone to jail.