Small Business Crime

It seems like a running joke that anyone’s big dream, if they achieve something, is always to go to Disney World. In Manhattan, one person was so determined to make this dream come true, that she was recently indicted for stealing over $2.6 million from her employer, and treated herself to her own trip to Disney World.

Regine Charles, a former bookkeeper has been accused of issuing over 500 unauthorized checks from the company accounts, along with her friend Daniel Louis. They have each been charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, and Ms. Charles faces charges of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. Of the money she stole, along with her trip to the most magical place on earth, she is accused of other vacations, and paying off credit card bills, tax debts, and car payments, among other things.

According to the record, in 2009 Charles began working for Bonjour USA, Inc., a travel agency catering to French citizens who wish to visit the United States. As the bookkeeper, she wrote checks to pay vendors and maintained the financial records of the business. Between June of 2010 up through January 2016, Charles is alleged to have stolen millions from the company, with the majority being deposited into her friend’s account and then transferred into her name. Some of the stolen checks had been written to legitimate vendors.

Ms. Charles was eventually discovered, according to court documents, when she went on vacation. In New York, Grand Larceny in the first degree involves a person stealing property with intent to deprive another of it or to appropriate the same to himself. The property in question must exceed one million dollars in value. It is one of the more severe white-collar crimes one can be charged within the state of New York. It is a class B felony, and if convicted, Ms. Charles faces between 1-3 years minimum sentence in prison, with a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Employee theft occurs fairly frequently, with estimates that 76 percent of insider fraud in the last years focused on small and mid-size businesses. Last year, a New York City postal worker was arrested on federal charges of stealing money and gifts through the mail she was supposed to process. Non-profit organizations are also often targets of white-collar crime: more than 1,100 tax-exempt organizations have reported some kind of theft, embezzlement or other diversions of funds within the past seven years, according to the I.R.S. This number is likely higher because most cases are never reported, often handled between the two parties before law enforcement ever gets involved.

Regardless of the criminal sentence, if someone is charged and convicted of stealing money from their employer, they will likely have difficulty in obtaining work in the future. Employers are often more concerned about their own liability in the event an employee is found to be stealing from them, particularly if the money was stolen from one of their clients or customers. In many cases, if you speak to a good criminal defense lawyer, employers can be persuaded to accept repayment of the funds and ensure the client suffers no loss in exchange for not alerting the authorities. Of course, this is dependent upon the amount of money stolen, and who from; however, whenever you are accused of a crime, the first thing you should do – even before speaking to your employer – is to seek out the advice of an experienced and competent criminal defense lawyer in your jurisdiction.


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