Alabama residents who are charged with committing white-collar crimes like fraud, embezzlement and bribery can be sent to prison for decades if they are convicted in federal court, but U.S. attorneys may be willing to offer them significant sentence reductions if they are prepared to plead guilty. A recent case involving a Texas man who admitted to embezzling his employer out of more than $550,000 reveals just how attractive the plea offers made by federal prosecutors sometimes are.
According to court documents, the San Angelo resident and a co-conspirator set up a sham corporation in order to create false invoices for equipment leases. The pair are said to have sent the Nolan County wind farm that employed the man as a site manager hundreds of phony invoices between 2016 and 2019. The man paid the fake invoices with a company credit card and then split the money with his co-conspirator. The man also used the company credit card to make unauthorized purchases of about $80,000. U.S. attorneys say these unauthorized purchases included an off-road vehicle and a dump truck.
After being taken into custody by law enforcement, the man was charged with four counts of making unauthorized transactions with an access device. He faced up to 60 years in federal prison if he had been found guilty by a jury. The man avoided this fate because his criminal defense attorney negotiated a plea agreement that included a lenient sentencing recommendation in return for four guilty pleas. On August 26, the man was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $359,000 to his former employer.
Federal prosecutors have high conviction rates because they are reluctant to go into court unless they have compelling evidence. In cases involving white-collar crimes, this evidence is often incriminating bank or credit card statements. When the possible sentence in a federal fraud or embezzlement case is harsh, and the chances of an acquittal are slim, an experienced criminal defense attorney may suggest forgoing a trial and pursuing a plea agreement instead.