An Ocala woman is facing 30 counts of wire fraud after unlawfully writing checks to herself from her place of employment.  As the bookkeeper for her employer, Julie Shepard, had direct access and authorization to write checks on behalf of her employer.  However, the owner grew suspicious that money was missing and an investigation by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department revealed numerous unauthorized checks made payable to Ms. Shepard totaling $27,000. She has been charged with one count each for every check. That means she’s facing nearly 30 counts of fraud.

This type of case is typically handled by local and state law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors because of the relatively low dollar amount.  While this case could be charged as embezzlement or a scheme to defraud, typically prosecutors will choose to use the theft statute.  In Florida, the theft statute is Florida Statute Section 812.041.  This charge is generally easier to prove and carries three levels of severity and corresponding punishment ranging from a third degree felony to a first degree felony.

If this case were to be investigated and charged as a federal crime, the charge would likely be wire or mail fraud.  Generally, if someone commits a crime and uses either the wires (electronic communication such as email, phone, online banking, etc.) or the mail they can be charged with the federal offense of wire or mail fraud.  Unlike state court, the federal charge does not have varying degrees based on the charge itself. However, the severity of punishment will be based on the amount of total foreseeable loss.

Defenses to fraud 

Prosecutors must establish that you knowingly defrauded another party. You cannot defraud someone accidentally. That means that a transaction or situation may have all the badges of fraud, but behind it, is someone who lacked the necessary knowledge of what they are doing.  Aften this can be a very difficult defense to establish.  However, there are situations where owners give bookkeepers great leeway with the finances of their company.  And often will give leeway to pay for personal expenses, when authorized.  A bookkeeper is in a unique position because they have been entrusted with the finances of the company.  Owners who give bookkeepers too much discretion should be very wary of internal theft.  But more importantly, the owner should cautious that his/her actions are not interpreted as granting the bookkeeper signature authority over finances.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Fraud Defense Lawyer Today 

Trombley & Hanes represents the interests of Tampa residents who are being accused of fraud and related white-collar offenses. Call our Tampa criminal lawyers today to schedule a consultation and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.