Economic Crimes and Fraud

Economic crimes can be some of the most damaging to your reputation and ability to obtain employment. Many employers have policies restricting the hiring of individuals who have a conviction for a crime of dishonesty. Having such a conviction will likely prevent you from working in many fields such as retail, financial institutions, or any position requiring handling of money. Theft cases can also result in high restitution amounts, resulting in extensive debt. Theft in Washington can take many forms and cover a wide range of behavior involving unauthorized control over money, personal property, and financial instruments such as checks, debit cards, and credit cards. Michele has worked with clients charged with all manner of theft crimes. As with any crime, engaging an attorney before you are charged can potentially mitigate the outcome. Certain theft cases, in particular, may be resolved prior to a criminal charge through negotiation of the parties and agreements outside the court system.


In Washington, the generic crime of Theft covers a wide range of behavior. By definition, theft is "to wrongfully obtain or exert unauthorized control over the property or services of another or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services; or by color of aid of deception to obtain control over the property or services of another or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services; or to appropriate lost or misdelivered property or services of another, or the value thereof, with intent to deprive him or her of such property or services." Theft crimes are distinguished in severity by the value of the property or services at issue.

  • Theft in the First Degree - Value of $5,000 or more.
  • Theft in the Second Degree - Value of $750-$5,000.
  • Theft in the Third Degree - Value of $750 or less.


In Washington, embezzlement, the unlawful transfer of funds is charged as the crime of Theft. Embezzlement occurs when a person who was entrusted to manage someone else's money or property steals that money for their personal gain. The amount of funds unlawfully taken will determine the severity of the theft charge. Theft charges can be first, second, and third degree. This type of theft may occur when a bookkeeper, account manager, attorney, or other person in a position of trust, unlawfully transfers their client's funds into their own account. Theft under these circumstances can result in jail or prison time, community service, fines, and potentially the loss of one's license.

Check Fraud

Check Fraud can take the form of theft, where a check is cashed fraudulently either after being stolen or the amount changed. Check fraud may also take the form of Unlawful Production of Payment Instruments where a person produces a check or other payment instrument in the name of another person or entity without permission. It is not necessary that the payment instrument be used in order for the crime to occur, it is the production of the instrument itself that constitutes the criminal activity.


A person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to injure or defraud, he or she falsley makes, completes, or alters a written instrument or; he or she possesses, utters, offers, disposes of, or puts off as true a written instrument which he or she knows to be forged.

Identity Theft

Identity Theft occurs when a person knowingly obtains, possesses, uses or transfers a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime. As with other forms of theft, the severity of the charge of identity theft is determined by the amount of the funds at issue.