Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paper trail will matter in football league embezzlement case in California


With football season around the corner, we are seeing the case of a woman accused of embezzling $100,000 from her son’s football league showing up in the news. The present news reports about this case have been focused on the initial arrest, which occurred in a different state from the state where the crime allegedly happened. As a result, jurisdictional questions are being asked by the press.

Investigations and prosecutions related to financial crimes are often complex matters. Because the federal government has a strong policy interest in regulating the financial industry, many white-collar crimes can be the subject of a state investigation, a federal investigation or both. This can lead to a complicated process in which various governmental entities try to assert jurisdiction over the same case.

Further complicating matters in white-collar crimes cases is the nature of the evidence. Unlike a burglary or robbery, white-collar crimes are usually devoid of physical evidence and often have no eyewitness testimony. These cases often hinge on interpretation of a paper trail. To further complicate matters in the 21st Century, the paper trail is often entirely digital.

In a criminal trial, the evidence will be tested in court and evaluated by a jury. Interpreting the sort of evidence presented in an embezzlement case is a challenge for most people, and therefore jurors will rely on expert witnesses’ interpretations of financial records. The prosecution’s expert witness will try to connect the dots between the illegal act and accounts or assets that the defendant controlled.

However, all evidence in a criminal trial is subject to challenge from the defense. Just as the prosecution in an embezzlement case will try to connect the money to the defendant, the defense will have its own experts and will present an alternate theory of events that could disconnect the dots of the prosecution’s case.

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