During the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a number of people allegedly helped themselves to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office.
A Pennsylvania woman was arrested for stealing Pelosi’s laptop. A Florida man was accused of taking her lectern. A New Jersey man admitted taking two microphones from the lectern.
They were among at least 35 people who were charged with theft of government property stemming from that day. Theft of government property is a serious federal offense that can carry steep fines and hefty prison time.
In this article, the federal defense attorneys at Varghese Summersett will explain the crime of theft of government property, as well as potential consequences and examples of this offense.
If you or a loved one has been accused of stealing from the government, it’s imperative to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who is skilled at handling these types of cases. We have vast experience defending federal theft cases in Fort Worth, Dallas and throughout the northern and eastern districts of Texas.
What constitutes federal theft of government property?
Under Title 18 Section 641 of the U.S. Code, a person commits theft of government property if he or she:
“embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to their use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money or something of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof;
“receives, conceals or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted.”
As you can see, this definition is very broad and encompasses a wide range of activities. Essentially, if you are accused of taking anything from the government without proper authorization, you could be charged with this crime. This includes documents, as well as tangible property.
It is also not necessary for the government to prove that you knew the property belonged to the government; that you intended to deprive the government of its use; or that you physically picked it up and carried it away.
What qualifies as government property?
Anything that is owned, leased or under the control of the federal government could be considered government property. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Office Supplies
What is the punishment for theft of government property?
Theft of government property is a serious offense that can lead to significant consequences, including prison time and steep fines. Defendants who are convicted of taking government property face up to 10 years in prison and a fine. However, if the value of the property is less than $1,000, the maximum punishment is one year plus a fine.
You could also be ordered to pay restitution and disciplinary proceedings could be brought against you if you hold a professional license.
It’s important to point out that federal sentencing is always meted by a judge, never a jury, and there are a number of factors that will be considered when deciding on a sentence. These include the defendant’s prior criminal history, the value of the property taken and the defendant’s role in the offense.
A skilled federal criminal defense attorney will know how to navigate the sentencing process and work to get their client the best possible outcome. To understand how federal sentencing works, please watch this comprehensive video by Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Benson Varghese.
What are possible defenses for theft of government property?
If you have been accused of stealing from the government, it’s crucial to have a seasoned and skilled federal defense attorney in your corner. There are a number of possible defenses that we could raise on your behalf. These include but are not limited to:
- Lack of Intent
- Insufficient evidence
- Constitutional violations
- Incorrect value assessed
Our team will evaluate the facts and circumstances of the allegations, devise the best defense strategy, and work vigorously to obtain the best possible outcome.
What are examples of people who have been arrested for theft of government property?
- A Florida man who was photographed carrying Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the Capitol Riot was sentenced to 75 days in prison, a year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $500 in restitution.
- A South Jersey man was sentenced to 10 days in federal prison and one year of supervised release, fined $1,000, and ordered to pay $938 in restitution for stealing two microphones from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the Capitol insurrection.
- A Pennsylvania woman was arrested on accusations that she stole a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Capitol Riot and planned to try and sell it to Russian intelligence agents.
- Three Virginia men were indicted in April 2022 on accusations that they stole walnut trees from federally protected land.
- A Michigan registered nurse was charged with theft of government property on accusations that she stole COVID-19 vaccination record cards from a VA hospital and resold the cards online.
- A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty to theft of government property for taking more than $1000 worth of construction materials from the site of a U.S. Courthouse being constructed in Harrisburg, PA, and stealing copper and brass materials to a scrapyard.
Facing theft of government property in Fort Worth, Dallas or surrounding areas?
At Varghese Summersett, our team of experienced and skilled federal attorneys are dedicated to providing our clients with top-notch legal representation. We have a proven track record of success in federal criminal cases and a reputation for being tough, aggressive litigators.
If you or someone you know has been accused of federal theft of government property, contact us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation. Put our experience to work for you.