A 47-year-old Florida man who has been accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from a DeFuniak Springs church has been fired by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. The WCSO announced the man’s termination in an Oct. 6 press release. The man had worked for the agency as a communications officer and dispatcher since May 2009.
Church notices financial irregularities
The investigation that led to the man’s arrest was launched when church officials reported financial irregularities. They told investigators that they confronted the man on Sept. 15 after noticing funds were missing from the church bank account. The man is accused of taking money while he served as the church’s treasurer. Over a period of four years, he is said to have withdrawn or transferred money from the church bank account and taken cash that had been given by members of the congregation.
First-degree felony charge
The man was taken into custody on Oct. 5 and transported to the Walton County Jail for processing. His bond has been set at $10,000 according to media reports. He is charged with committing organized fraud of more than $50,000. This is a first-degree felony in Florida that carries a maximum custodial sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Negotiating reduced sentences in fraud cases
Mounting a defense in cases involving white-collar crimes is often challenging because the key evidence is usually highly compromising financial documents and electronic records. This is why embezzlement, bribery and fraud cases are usually resolved with plea agreements. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may urge prosecutors to recommend a less severe sentence by reminding them of the risks of arguing before a jury and making them aware of mitigating factors like genuine regret and the desire to repay those who have suffered financially.