What kind of theft offenses are federal crimes?
Theft is generally defined as taking the property of another. There are many ways this can happen, and most acts of theft are charged and prosecuted under state law. However, federal theft offenses are those that affect interstate or foreign commerce or activities subject to federal jurisdiction. The following are some examples:
- Auto theft: the transportation of a stolen vehicle across state lines with knowledge that the vehicle is stolen.
- Extortion: the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. Federal law prohibits blackmail by threat of informing on a violation of U.S. law, extortion by officers or employees of the U.S., and transmitting interstate threats of ransom, extortion, kidnapping, or injury for anything of value.
- Embezzlement: when a person who is entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals it for his or her own personal gain. Most federal embezzlement cases involve an employee stealing funds from his or her employer (federal agency or bank).
- Bank Robbery: is a federal crime because “banks” are members of the Federal Reserve System, they operate under the laws of the United States, their deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and are circulated in interstate and foreign commerce.
- Robbery on the High Seas: Taking the property of another by force while traveling on the ocean or in flight above it (“special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”).
What is the punishment for federal theft crimes?
Most federal theft crimes are felonies punishable with high fines and lengthy prison sentences. Very few are misdemeanors. For example:
- 18 U.S. Code § 641 – § 670 – Embezzlement and theft by federal and bank employees, and other acts of theft affecting interstate or foreign commerce is mostly punishable by fine and imprisonment up to one year if the amount is less than $1,000 and up to 10 years if the amount is $1,000 or more.
- 18 U.S. Code § 872 – Extortion by officers or employees of the U.S. is punishable by fine and imprisoned up to one year if the amount is less than $1,000, and up to three years if the amount is $1,000 or more.
- 18 U.S. Code § 873 – Blackmail by threat of informing a violation of U.S. law is punishable by fine and imprisonment up to one year.
- 18 U.S. Code § 875 – Interstate communications for extortion purposes are punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 20 years if involving the ransom for a kidnapped person or threat of kidnapping or injuring another person.
- 18 U.S. Code § 2111 – Robbery within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. is punishable with imprisonment up to 15 years.
- 18 U.S. Code § 2113 – Bank robbery of less than $1,000 is punishable by fine and imprisonment up to one year and up to 10 years if more than $1,000, up to 20 years if done by force, intimidation, extortion, regardless of amount, and up to 25 years if a dangerous weapon is used.
- 18 U.S. Code § 2312 – Transportation of stolen vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce is punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 10 years.