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March 18, 2022


The difference between embezzlement and false pretenses

Property theft can fall under two different types of charges. One is embezzlement and the other is false pretenses. There is a difference and it can be helpful to understand what each term actually means.

What embezzlement entails

Most people think of embezzlement when they think of white-collar theft. Embezzlement is the taking of money or property that is entrusted to you. But is not always white-collar. Technically a mechanic can be charged with embezzlement if she takes catalytic converters from the shop where works and sells them to her sister who owns a junkyard and then uses that money to go king salmon fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska. She’s been entrusted with the converters at work and then steals them. That’s embezzlement. She will likely have other matters to deal with when the sister finds out.

What obtaining property by false pretenses entails

This happens when someone obtains something of value that they promise to pay for but have no intention of paying for. If our same mechanic tells a customer that she will give him $65,000 for his 400-horsepower Iacocca Ford Mustang and he transfers the title and keys to her but she never actually gives or intends to give him the money, she has obtained property under false pretenses. This woman is not making friends anywhere.

What kind of legal trouble are you in for obtaining property by false pretenses?

The charges and the potential legal penalties will depend on the value of the item taken. In Texas, if the amount of property is between $2,500 and $30,000 then it will be punished as a state jail felony. This incurs a fine of up to $10,000 and time in jail that can be as long as two years. For values that are between $30,000 and $150,000 (like the Mustang) the fine is up to $10,000 and jail time is up to 10 years. The fine remains at a $10,000 maximum but jail time increases as the value of the property in question go up.

What are the penalties for embezzlement in Texas?

The punishment for an embezzlement conviction also depends on the amount of money or the value of the goods taken. Up to $100 is a class C misdemeanor and a $500 fine (such as one $50 catalytic converter). For charges of embezzlement that involve $300,000 and more, the penalty ranges from two to 99 years in prison and possible fines of up to $10,000. Public servants who are convicted of embezzlement are viewed as having broken the trust of those they serve. Therefore, prosecutors tend to enhance charges against public servants and for those who work with the elderly, and for non-profits.