Today, Bernhard Law Firm won an embezzlement lawsuit brought by a Venezuelan investment company against a Miami investment manager. Bernhard Law Firm sought triple the amount embezzled by the Miami manager, plus all attorney’s fees and costs, under Florida’s civil theft statute. At a hearing this morning, the Court granted Bernhard Law Firm triple the amount stolen, plus interest, attorney’s fees, and all costs. (Florida Bar disclaimer: results may not be typical. You may not have as beneficial a result). If you have any questions on embezzlement, investment, civil theft, or property disputes, please contact Bernhard Law Firm at 786-871-3349, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bernhardlawfirm.com. For more on the Florida law at issue in this case, keep reading:
To establish a claim for civil theft in Florida, a party should show that a conversion of private property has taken place and that the accused party acted with corrupt or criminal intent. Heldenmuth v. Groll, 128 So. 3d 895, 896 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (holding real property owner stated claim for civil theft from escrow agent’s theft of escrowed amounts). Conversion is an unauthorized act that deprives another of his property permanently or for an indefinite time. Senfeld v. Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Co. (Cayman) Ltd., 450 So. 2d 1157, 1160–61 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984) (affirming civil theft where corporation president erroneously received $10,000 from trust company managing corporate account, and did not immediately return it).
Embezzlement of funds temporarily transferred to a defendant for use in business purposes constitutes civil theft. Id.; Masvidal v. Ochoa, 505 So. 2d 555, 556 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) (holding embezzlement of subscription funds constituted civil theft); Burke v. Napieracz, 674 So. 2d 756, 758 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996) (holding taking transferred money for personal use and refusing to return upon demand is civil theft and an independent tort from breach of contract). Refusal to return upon demand is evidence of criminal intent. Id. A prevailing party to a civil theft claim is entitled to treble damages, attorney’s fees and costs. § 772.11, Fla. Stat. (2016).
Here, a Miami investment manager embezzled funds from Bernhard Law Firm’s client, a Venezuelan investment company. The Miami manager refused demands for return of the funds and generally concealed their amounts, evidencing criminal intent. Today, the Court held these acts constitute civil theft under Florida law, granting final judgment to Bernhard Law Firm and triple damages, fees, and costs to the client, under § 772.11, Fla. Stat. (2016). If you have any questions on embezzlement, investment, or property disputes, please contact Bernhard Law Firm at 786-871-3349, email@example.com, www.bernhardlawfirm.com.