Theft By Conversion Is On the Rise in the U.S.
There are several different types of theft. For this article, we will be discussing theft by conversion. Like any other theft case, theft by conversion is the unlawful taking of an asset or possession with no intention of returning, depriving the rightful owner of it. To provide better insight, here is what you need to know about theft by conversion.
What Is Theft By Conversion?
As mentioned earlier, theft by conversion is when an individual is given permission to use another individual’s funds or asset, but that individual ends up violating the fund or property that violates the initial agreement.
Let’s break it down a bit more. Let’s say you work for a trucking company and the company lawfully provides you with a truck to deliver merchandise to a retail store. Rather than using the truck to make deliveries, you take the truck for your own use without ever returning it. That is theft by conversion. Another great example is rental cars. Many times a person will rent a rental car with the intention of not returning it but instead continue using the car as if it is their own. That is also theft by conversion.
What was originally a legal exchange is now illegally in your possession or ownership. This sort of situation happens every day and can personally and financially affect individuals and businesses.
How to Determine the Value of the Property Taken
Under the O.C.G.A § 16-8-12, the proper measure of value is the fair cash market value either at the place and time of the theft or any stage during the receipt or concealment of the property. However, other evidence can be introduced as to the item’s value such as the testimony of the owner of the value of the stolen items based on his experience in buying them, the jury’s awareness of the everyday value of the item, or other opinion evidence. Smith v. State, 207 Ga. App. 290, (1993).
Theft By Conversion As a Misdemeanor Offense
Conversion theft of funds or property valued at $500 or less is charged as a misdemeanor offense in criminal court. The penalty for a misdemeanor charge of theft by conversion includes a fine of no more than $1,000 and a sentence not exceeding more than 12 months confinement. If the sentence is six months or less of jail time, the judge can allow the sentence to be served via weekend confinement or during the defendant’s non-working hours.
Theft By Conversion As a Felony Offense
For conversion theft of funds or property valued at more than $500 is charged as a felony. The penalty for a felony charge of theft by conversion is a prison term of no less than one year, but not exceeding ten years. On top of the prison sentence or fine, there can be additional costs to committing a felony if a civil action is filed against you for damages. You can be sued for monetary damages. The monetary damages could include, but are not limited to:
- Compensatory damages which would include the value of the property and any other losses sustained as a result of the theft
- Liquidated exemplary damages amount to $150 or twice the value of the loss (total amount must be less than $5,000)
- Court costs
- Restitutions damages
How You Can Prevent Theft By Conversion As a Business
There is no foolproof prevention for theft by conversion. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be an increasing problem for businesses across the country. However, extensive background checks on employees as well as vendors or contract workers.
One of the conversion thefts on the rise across the U.S. targets businesses, costing them thousands and even millions of dollars. These thefts are carried out by organized crime rings that can have members within your organization or businesses you work with. It is always important to be vigilant of this rising problem so that you do not fall victim to a hit.
[RELATED: Understanding Organized Retail Theft Rings]
Think You Might Be a Victim of Theft By Conversion? Contact the PI Firm of CGA Solutions
With over 25 years of experience, our licensed investigators work with Georgia and South Carolina businesses to gather the necessary information to help in your theft by conversion case. We provide organized retail crime investigations as well as standard criminal investigation services. Schedule a free consultation with our team today.