Theft in Florida Increasingly a White Collar Affair

Despite the recent implementation of a retail theft task force in the state, our Fort Lauderdale felony defense attorneys know theft is a crime that is turning increasingly white collar.
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The reason is that white collar theft can be highly lucrative and, at least as far as perception goes, not nearly as risky.

For example, if you burglarize a series of unlocked vehicles on a given city block, you may net a few hundred dollars, some electronics and maybe some other miscellaneous items. You also risk potentially being caught red-handed and perhaps even become the victim of vigilante justice.

However, let’s say you improperly collect tax refund checks, as has become a common scheme, particularly in South Florida. You could stand to collect tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. You also don’t have the risk of face-to-face confrontation, being captured on surveillance video or a potentially dangerous chase.

But you shouldn’t take that to mean such ventures aren’t risky. The way Florida law is written, the higher the value of the theft, the more time you are potentially going to face.

Florida Statute 812.014
defines theft as an action whereby a person knowingly obtains uses or endeavors to obtain or use the property of another with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive someone of that property.

You can face a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, if the value of that property is over $100,000 or over $50,000, assuming it entered into interstate commerce or trade. You might also be charged with the more serious-level offense if you caused more than $1,000 in property damage during the course of your crime.

Any theft between $20,000 and $100,000 is going to be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Beyond that, any theft above $300 is considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, though aggravating circumstances could have you facing substantially more time.

An increasing number of white collar thefts have resulted in generally more severe charges because the amounts allegedly stolen were much higher.

For example, a Broward County school district official was recently accused of stealing some $50,000 worth of gasoline from the district’s pumps. According to police, the employee, over the course of nearly a year, allowed himself unfettered access to the district’s fuel pumps, for which he had “fuel keys,” given to him as part of his work duties as a maintenance department laborer and bus driver. Officials say the fuel was for “his personal benefit” but it’s not clear if he was reportedly using it solely for his own personal vehicles or if he was in turn selling the gas to third parties.

Another recent example involves two freight company workers who reportedly schemed to defraud wireless provider Tracfone with some $2 million in fraudulent invoices. The 23-count federal indictment accuses the pair of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering for a scheme that reportedly spanned from summer 2008 through winter 2012. The interstate element is likely why the federal government is handling the case, and the pair face 20 years behind bars on each wire fraud count and another 10 years on each count of money laundering.

If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
School employee accused of stealing more than $50,000 worth of fuel from district, Aug. 27, 2013 By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Florida Retail Theft Task Force Aims to Take Down Shoplifters, Aug. 1, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Felony Defense Laywer Blog

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