Penal Code section 508

Embezzlement is a kind of property theft. It occurs when someone who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.

Embezzlement is punished according to the value of the property, or the amount of money stolen. Embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is petty theft (a misdemeanor).

Embezzlement of property, money, or services worth more than $950 is grand theft (a “wobbler” which means that the crime may be either a felony or a misdemeanor).


Penal Code section 470

Forgery is the making, altering, or uttering (offering as true) any written document, knowing the document is not true and with the intent to defraud (trick or deceive). Documents that are covered by the forgery statute include all financial and legal documents, such as checks, notes, money orders, contracts, bills, receipts, lottery tickets, leases, and powers of attorney. A person also commits the crime of forgery by:

  • Signing the name of another person (or a fictitious person) on a financial or legal document without permission
  • Copying another person’s seal or handwriting without permission
  • Altering or falsifying any will, conveyance, or other legal document or evidence
  • Making or altering any legal record or entry in a book of records
  • Copying a state, official, or corporate seal, or possessing a fake seal without permission
  • Possessing, with the intent to pass on to another, any altered or counterfeit document, knowing that the document is counterfeit
  • Possessing any blank check (or similar note) with the intent to complete the check
  • Possessing a completed check (or similar note) with the intent to use it or pass it off as genuine
  • Making, uttering, or possessing with the intent to utter any counterfeit bill or check

It is also a crime to duplicate or alter a driver’s license or identification card, or display or possess a duplicated or altered card with the intent that the card be used to commit forgery.

Forgery is a “wobbler” which means that the crime may be either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Identity Theft

Penal Code section 530.5

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s information in order to obtain goods, services, or any other type of benefit. Someone commits identity theft crime when he or she:

  • Obtains another person’s identifying information to use for any unlawful purpose
  • Acquires, transfers, or retains another person’s identifying information with the intent to defraud
  • Sells, transfers, or conveys another person’s identifying information with the intent to defraud

A person’s identifying information can include almost anything a person can use to identify him or herself, such as a date of birth, name, address, tax ID number, employer identification, credit card numbers, and similar types of information.

Identity theft is a “wobbler” which means that the crime may be either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Insurance Fraud

Penal Code section 550

Insurance fraud occurs when people deceive an insurance company in order to collect money to which they are not entitled. In order for the defendant to be found guilty of fraudulent activities, prosecutors must prove that each of the following “elements” was met.

First, insurance fraud requires that the defendant knowingly make a false or misleading statement, or, in other words, tell a lie. Simply not telling the truth is not enough – the defendant must do so knowingly, which means he must intend to make the statement and be aware that the statement is false.

Second, the false statement must have been made in support of, opposition to, or connection with a claim or payment made or to be made under an insurance policy. This can include a false or exaggerated claim made to an insurance company, a false statement made to a physician in connection with an insurance claim, or false statements made by medical providers to insurers about the services they performed.

Lastly, the false statement must be material, or important, to the insurance payment or claim. If a person tells a lie during the course of an insurance claim investigation, but it has no actual or potential bearing on the outcome of the investigation, he has not committed fraud.

Insurance fraud is a felony that is punishable by two, three or five years in county prison.

Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Insurance Code section 1871.4

Workers’ compensation insurance fraud occurs in simple and complex schemes. Employees may exaggerate or even fabricate injuries to receive compensation from the employer’s insurance. At the other end of the spectrum, white-collar criminals, including doctors and lawyers, entice, pay, and conspire with others to defraud the system by creating false or exaggerated claims, over treating, and over prescribing harmful and addictive drugs.

Workers’ compensation fraud is a felony that is punishable by two, three or five years in county prison.

Asset Forfeiture

Penal Code section 186.11(d)

Any person convicted of two or more related felonies involving fraud or embezzlement with a total loss of over $100,000 face possible sentencing enhancements and are vulnerable to the government seizing any assets or property of the defendant – assets which the defendant controls or transferred to another subsequent to the criminal acts charged. This seizure is done by the court in order to pay any victim restitution or court fines.