Embezzlement: Employment Agreements Control Application of Funds Received

A lawyer in the Richmond area practiced Social Security law.  As is common in that practice area, the government would pay attorney fees directly to the lawyer providing the services.  However, the lawyer in this case had an employment agreement with her firm stating that the money belonged to the firm, even if the funds were made payable to her.

Temptation took the best of her, and the lawyer kept many of the checks she received from the government.  Since they were made payable to her, this was easy to do.  She ultimately kept $450,000 in funds.

Her employer found out about this and was mad.  They called the police and she was charged with embezzlement.  She argued that she didn’t embezzle the funds because the checks were made out to her for work that she performed.  The government hadn’t entrusted her with the funds on behalf of her employer; it wrote the checks to her!

The Court, however, disagreed writing:  A plain reading of Code § 18.2-111 provides three separate and distinct scenarios in which a person may be convicted of embezzlement: when a person misappropriates property “received for another or for [her] employer,” or 2) “by virtue of [her] office, trust, or employment,” or 3) “which shall have been entrusted or delivered to [her] by another.” Proof of either one satisfies the statutory requirement. Thus, the Commonwealth need only prove that appellant wrongfully and fraudulently used or disposed of the firm’s property which she had received for the firm.  Alternatively the Commonwealth may prove appellant wrongfully and fraudulently used or disposed of the firm’s property which she received by virtue of her employment or which was entrusted or delivered to her by another.

The lawyer contended that her conviction is erroneous because the Social Security Administration did not entrust the checks to her for the benefit of the firm. However, her argument fails, because it ignores the first part of the embezzlement statute. The uncontroverted evidence is that appellant wrongfully and fraudulently used or disposed of the firm’s property (checks) which she received for the firm. That evidence, in itself, is sufficient for a conviction.”

The case was Leftwich v. Commonwealth, No. 2349-11-2 (February 5, 2013)

May Law attorneys defend embezzlement cases.  For more information on this law, click here.