Florida Man Faces State, Federal Sentences for $15 Million Embezzlement

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At the Marian Gardens Tree Farm just outside Orlando, Gary Williams held a position of trust: in 20 years of employment, he had risen to the position of chief financial officer. As CFO, Williams had unfettered access to company accounts.

Over several years, Williams falsified checks, took out credit in his employer's name and made large cash withdrawals from company accounts. He used the money to buy himself high-end products, throw lavish parties and take extravagant vacations.

All told, Williams was accused of stealing some $15 million. When the law finally caught up with him, he faced the rare prospect of dual Florida and federal-level convictions.

Embezzlement and Penalties

Embezzlement is typically defined as the fraudulent taking of another's property when possession of the property has been obtained through a position of trust. Unlike many other forms of theft, the criminal intent for embezzlement arises once possession of the property has been lawfully obtained.

Today, many jurisdictions, including Florida, consolidate crimes like larceny, false pretenses and embezzlement into one general "theft" statute. Depending on the value and type of property stolen - and the circumstances of the crime - embezzlement could be considered anything from grand theft (which in Florida can be a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison) to petit theft, a misdemeanor.

Although there are federal laws covering certain forms of embezzlement, usually embezzlement is prosecuted as a state crime. Still, federal crimes like mail fraud (using the postal system at any point in the commission of a criminal scheme to obtain property) and income tax evasion (remember, taxes are due even on illegally-obtained income) commonly accompany an embezzlement, bringing the crime within federal purview. These federal violations can carry substantial penalties, and are frequently used to prosecute embezzlements.

Dual Prosecutions for Williams

For Gary Williams, the might of both Florida and federal law slammed down on his shoulders. After a prosecution in federal court for mail fraud and income tax evasion that landed him an eight-year prison term, he was sentenced by a Florida judge to 12 years for grand theft. His sentences will be served concurrently, meaning that after Williams is released from federal prison, he will serve another four years with the Florida Department of Corrections.

Such dual federal and state prosecutions are rare, and a number of states have laws that ban the practice; but, in Florida, criminal defendants may be hauled into both state and federal court.

If you have been accused of embezzlement or any other property crime, contact an attorney with experience in both Florida and federal criminal cases to ensure that you receive the best defense possible on all fronts.