Embezzlement in Colorado

In Colorado, theft of property that you have under your control or in your possession is embezzlement. This often involves taking money or goods from an employer. Embezzlement is generally prosecuted as a theft crime in Colorado, with penalties depending on the value of property stolen. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

Embezzlement
In Colorado, theft of property that you have under your control or in your possession is embezzlement. This often involves taking money or goods from an employer.

1. What is embezzlement in Colorado?

Embezzlement is a crime that involves the theft or misuse of money or property, generally from an employer or company. Colorado law classifies the crime as a type of theft. Under CRS § 18-4-403, the state may substitute "embezzlement" in place of "theft" when appropriate, except in the case of embezzlement of public property.1

1.1. Embezzlement by Theft (C.R.S. 18-4-401, C.R.S. 18-4-403)

The crime of embezzlement is defined within the Colorado statute for theft. An individual commits theft by embezzlement when he or she "knowingly obtains, retains, or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization or by threat or deception" and:

  • Intends to deprive the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the thing of value;
  • Knowingly uses, conceals or abandons the thing of value in a way that deprives the other individual permanently of its use; or
  • Retains the thing of value for over seventy-two hours after any agreed-upon time of return or lease.2

For example, let's say Dwayne is a bartender at a busy Denver sports bar. Dwayne's boss refused to give Dwayne a raise even though Dwayne is the best bartender they have. Dwayne takes some of the cash payments and pockets it instead of ringing up the sales. Dwayne is taking the money because he believes the bar should be paying him more. If Dwayne is caught, he may be charged with embezzlement.

1.2. Embezzlement of Public Property (C.R.S. 18-8-407)

Embezzlement of public property is a separate crime, as it deals with any property taken from the state or government. The statute defines embezzlement of public property as when a public servant comes into possession of public money or property, and knowingly converts any of the money or property to their own use, or any other use not authorized by law.3

For example, let's say Franz works in the city finance department. Part of Franz's job is to approve purchases made by other city government offices. Franz submits fake invoices for a company that he owns. Franz approves payments to the fake company and cashes the checks. If an audit discovers Franz's scheme to fraudulently bill the city, he may be charged with embezzlement of public property.

2. Penalties to Embezzlement in Colorado

The penalties for embezzlement in the state of Colorado depend on the type of embezzlement, value of the theft, and the parties involved. In addition to fines and possible imprisonment, a defendant may have to pay restitution amounts equal to what was lost through the embezzlement.

2.1. Embezzlement Penalties

For most embezzlement crimes, the class of criminal offense will depend on the value of what was embezzled. This includes petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felony criminal charges.

Value of Property Embezzled

Class of Criminal Offense

Penalties

Less than $50

Class 1 Petty Offense

Up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500

$50 or more but less than $300

Class 3 Misdemeanor

Up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750

$300 or more but less than $750

Class 2 Misdemeanor

3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000

$750 or more but less than $2,000

Class 1 Misdemeanor

6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000

$2,000 or more but less than $5,000

Class 6 Felony

12 to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000

$5,000 or more but less than $20,000

Class 5 Felony

1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000

$20,000 or more but less than $100,000

Class 4 Felony

2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000

$100,000 or more but less than $1 million

Class 3 Felony

4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000

$1 million or more

Class 2 Felony

8 to 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000

In addition to criminal sentencing, there is also a mandatory parole period for felony theft offenses. Mandatory parole ranges from 1 to 5 years for felony embezzlement.

If an individual commits multiple embezzlement offenses within a period of 6 months, the value of the amount embezzled can be combined and charged as a single offense.

2.2. Penalties for Embezzlement of Public Property

Embezzlement of public property is a class 5 felony. Penalties for a conviction of embezzlement of public property in Colorado includes 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. In addition, there is a mandatory parole period of 2 years.

In addition to criminal sentencing, anyone who is convicted of embezzlement of public property is disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit in the state of Colorado.

3. What are defenses to Colorado embezzlement charges?

There are a number of possible defenses to charges for criminal embezzlement. These include:

  • The defendant did not intend to deprive their employer of the funds or item permanently;
  • The defendant had legal authority to use the funds in the manner they were spent;
  • Another person took the money or property; or
  • The defendant returned the item within the specific time frame.

4. Related Offenses

Embezzlement may involve other related criminal offenses. Embezzlement is often tied to money laundering, check fraud, or forgery.

4.1. Money Laundering C.R.S. 18-5-309

Money laundering involves moving money around to try and evade the government's ability to track the source of the funds. Money laundering may be used to hide money that was embezzled from an employer. Money laundering is a class 3 felony in Colorado, and the penalties include 4 to 12 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.

4.2. Check Fraud C.R.S. 18-5-205

Writing a check with the knowledge that there are insufficient funds and with intent to defraud is fraud by check. This includes issuing a check for the payment of services, salary, rent, money, property, or other things of value. The penalties for fraud by check will depend on the value of the fraud involved. Amounts less than $50 are a petty offense and amounts greater than $2,000 are a class 6 felony.

4.3. Forgery C.R.S. 18-5-102

Forgery in Colorado involves altering or making fake documents with the intent to defraud. Embezzlement may include forgery if the individual is altering accounting records or forging someone's signature. Forgery is a class 5 felony in Colorado, with penalties including 1 to 3 years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000.

Call us for help...

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If you have been accused of embezzlement or theft from your employer, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal theft offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References

  1. C. R. S. 18-4-403
  2. C. R. S. 18-4-401
  3. C. R. S. 18-8-407

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