Millions of veterans are living in poverty in the U.S. and are struggling just to make ends meet. And while organizations are doing what they can to offer assistance and relief, it can be challenging and emotionally difficult for veterans to get back on their feet. This may cause some veterans to resort to stealing in order to get what they need. However, there are laws surrounding theft, robbery, burglary, and embezzlement that are designed to protect the property and belongings of individuals, businesses, and organizations. Specifically, there is a law regarding theft of government property.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is the Department of Defense’s largest military retailer providing veterans and their families with tax-free shopping. Since 1895, the Exchange has served active duty military, retirees, National Guardsmen, Reservists, and many others. As a part of the Department of Defense, shoplifting from the Exchange would be considered theft of government property.

According to 18 U.S.C. section 641, theft of government property is a federal offense. The law states:

“Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof . . . ”

The law also states that it is a crime if someone receives property knowing that it was embezzled, stolen, or converted.

What is Embezzlement

Embezzlement is when someone steals money or property from another person, employer, or business partner who trusted the embezzler with the money or property. An embezzler is able and allowed to handle the property, but it is a crime to take possession of it. For example, embezzlement is when an employee takes money from the cash register for their own personal use.

Steal, Purloin, or Knowingly Convert

These terms are used to refer to the crime of larceny, which has four elements:

  1. Wrongful taking of the property
  2. The property belongs to someone else
  3. The owner of the property did or does not give consent
  4. There is an intent to permanently take possession of the property

Potential Penalties of Theft of Government Property

The word “value,” according to the law, means face or market value, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater.

  • If the value of the property stolen is valued at $1,000 or less, it is considered a misdemeanor charge and is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.
  • If the value of the property stolen is valued at more than $1,000, it can be prosecuted as a felony. A conviction may result in no more than 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both.

In addition to fines and potential prison time, a conviction could bring several other consequences, such as the loss or suspension of a professional license, the loss of the right to purchase or own a gun, deportation in the event the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, and the possibility of having to pay restitution (paying back the money that was stolen).

The Exchange offers military service members with everything from electronics to clothing to home goods, appliances and more. Whether you are a shopper at the Exchange or an employee of the organization, theft of government property is a serious offense and can lead to serious consequences.

At Murphy & Price, our knowledgeable and experienced military defense attorneys are passionate about representing everyone in need. Warren Price worked extensively in Annapolis, Maryland defending active duty military personnel and his firm is highly skilled and capable of helping you with any legal trouble.

With three Exchange locations in the area, including Peterson Main Exchange, Fort Carson, and the USAF Academy, our team of defense attorneys is passionate about representing you and fighting hard for your rights. If you or someone you know has been charged with theft of government property, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The firm of Murphy & Price is here to help.