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Louisiana defendant admits theft, disputes embezzlement amount

The Louisiana law named theft by misappropriation without violence is also known by another name. Embezzlement is a white collar crime that falls in this theft category. The value of a stolen asset is the primary factor in determining the punishment for a conviction.

A 40-year-old Amant woman worked several years as a furniture store accounts manager in Gonzales. The employee also handled payroll for Big Ben Rent World until she was terminated in August. A discussion between the employee and store owner prompted an internal investigation of the business's books – details of the conversation were not reported.

A company accountant stated she found inconsistencies during a six-week payroll investigation. Store officials contacted police. The former manager recently was arrested and charged with felony theft.

Investigators said the defendant stole from her employer systematically over a period of nearly six years, starting in 2008. Police allege the woman altered payroll records to pocket more than $200,000. The ex-manager apparently issued several extra paychecks in her own name and removed deductions from her checks.

The woman confessed she stole from the furniture store, but she disputed the amount police claimed was embezzled. The defendant was charged with felony theft in excess of $25,000. According to the state's theft by misappropriation without violence law, a conviction could land the woman in prison for up to 20 years, with a maximum fine of $50,000.

In an affirmative defense, a criminal lawyer may argue the value of an embezzled item was not as high as charged. A change in value can make a considerable difference in penalties. For instance, consequences for a non-violent theft crime, involving property valued between $5,000 and $24,999, equals a prison sentence of up to 10 years with a possible $10,000 fine.

A defendant's attorney will explore opportunities for charges to be dropped or reduced by disputing evidence. The long-term effect can be significant.

Source: The Advocate, "Former furniture store manager accused of embezzling more than $200,000" Oct. 15, 2014

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