Theft and Larceny

It is a violation of federal law to steal, embezzle or convert money or anything of value that belongs to the United States. To convict a person of this crime the prosecution must prove certain elements. First the prosecutor must show the property or money belongs to the United States government. Second, the accused must have fraudulently appropriated the property to himself or another person. The prosecutor must show the accused did this act knowingly and willingly with the intent deprive the owner the use of the property, either temporarily or permanently.

A theft or larceny includes the act of stealing by fraudulent means or stealing by physically removing property without permission or authority. Embezzlement falls under the category of theft or larceny but there is a difference between embezzlement and stealing. To commit the crime of embezzlement, the person has control or custody over the property but converts it to their own use or benefit. Stealing requires the person to physically remove the property from the possession of another. Under federal law the crimes of theft, embezzlement and stealing all fall under the same federal statue, Title 18 U.S.C. §641, which makes it a federal crime to “embezzle, steal, purloin, or knowingly convert” to one’s own use the property of the United States. The crime of embezzlement is specifically mentioned in the statute by specifically prohibiting the act of concealing or retaining property of the United States with the intent to convert it to his own use. All these offenses fall under the general term of theft. Miami attorney Ken Swartz has the experience to defend those who have been charged with theft and larceny.

The physical act of removing property to constitute a theft does not require much movement. In proving a theft, the prosecution need only show any slight movement of property. As an example, suppose that a package entering the United States is in the Customs area of the Miami International Airport, and a person moves the package as short distance so that it is outside the Customs enclosure. Any appreciable change of the location of the property with felonious intent, whether there is an actual removal of it from the owner’s premises or not, constitutes the removal element of the offense. Even if the accused moves the property a few yards from the customs area it is still a theft.

Under federal statute the theft of any property that is moving through interstate commerce is a federal crime. Section 659 makes it a crime to embezzle, steal or unlawfully take property which is in interstate shipment. The statute also includes th oact of obtaining property by fraud or deception. This section does not require the property to be government property.

The important element in any theft offense is proof that the accused intended to deprive another person of the use of the property. If the accused believes he partly owns the property or believes the owner has allowed him to use the property, this amounts to a complete defense to a theft charge. A person accused of theft commit a crime if he believes that the property is really his or if he believes the owner has allowed him to use the property, a car for instance. These are important facts which can disprove an accusation of theft.

Please feel free to call the Swartz law firm in Miami, or throughout Florida, to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney.

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