Yes, you can still be convicted of embezzlement even if you pay all the money back before someone catches you. However, you may still want to be proactive and pay the money back as soon as possible. This could potentially reduce the penalties you face.
Even if you just borrowed the money, you could be found guilty of embezzlement if you did not have explicit permission to borrow.
Embezzlement in Michigan
The basic definition of embezzlement is to fraudulently dispose of or convert to your own use any money or property that was in your possession or control because you were acting as an agent, servant, employee, trustee, bailee or custodian of that property or its owner.
In other words, if someone entrusts you with their property and you take it, you could be found guilty of embezzlement.
Michigan has nine separate statutes that criminalize embezzlement. The main statute, Michigan Penal Code Section 750.174, lays out the basics of embezzlement law in the state. The others describe what should happen if the alleged victim of the embezzlement is a vulnerable adult, for example, or if the alleged embezzler is a public servant.
What are the possible penalties for embezzlement in Michigan?
The possible penalties depend on your role, the value of the property allegedly stolen and, in some cases, characteristics of the person or organization you allegedly embezzled from.
For example, a person who takes less than $200, has no prior criminal record and has no special relationship to the alleged victim could be charged with a simple misdemeanor. A conviction could mean no more than 93 days in jail and/or a fine of either $500 or three times the value of the property taken, whichever is greater.
If you have been convicted of embezzlement before, however, that same $200 embezzlement might get you up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $2,000 or three times the value of the property taken, whichever is greater.
The penalties jump when you reach $1,000. This is a felony charge. A conviction could mean up to five years in prison and a fine of either $10,000 or three times the value of the property taken, whichever is greater.
When the value of the money and property allegedly stolen reaches $100,000 or more, a conviction could mean up to 20 years in prison and/or either a $50,000 fine or three times the value of the property taken, whichever is greater.
In general, the penalties are greater if you allegedly embezzle from a nonprofit or charitable organization, someone 60 or older or a vulnerable adult.
It’s important to understand that the prosecutor will look at the whole amount allegedly taken, even if the alleged embezzlement took place over a course of years.
What can I do to limit the damage?
Although paying back the money is not itself a defense to embezzlement, paying back all of the money could be taken as a positive development by the victim and, in some cases, the prosecutor.
Other than that, the most important step you can take to limit the damage of an embezzlement charge is to hire an experienced defense attorney to champion your rights.