Civil Theft Practice Group

Our attorneys have successfully handled civil theft, or conversion, claims on behalf of customers of banks and other major financial institutions. In these cases, our attorneys often work together with members of law enforcement who are prosecuting the criminal portion of the theft or embezzlement case on behalf of the government. Typically, the prosecutor’s case is often focused on the individuals most responsible for the theft and not necessarily any of the third parties who may be civilly liable to the victim. Unfortunately, as a result, the government’s case often ends with a prosecution, but little to no money in the victim’s pocket.

The unique challenge with most conversion or civil theft cases is locating third parties who are both solvent and legally responsible for paying money damages to the victim. This is often a complex task, which involves novel legal and practical issues. As a result, it is critical for victims of civil theft to retain an experienced civil theft attorney to navigate these issues. We are those attorneys.

Immediate Steps to Take if You were a Victim of Civil Theft or EmbezzlementStep 1: Hire an Attorney

Do not delay in retaining an experienced attorney to handle your civil theft or embezzlement claim. It is our experience that critical mistakes can often be avoided in the days and weeks after a person learns that they were a victim of embezzlement or civil theft. It is important to immediately retain an experienced attorney who can navigate these complex issues on your behalf.

Step 2: Alert the Financial Institution Through Your Attorney

Immediately take measures to prevent further theft by alerting all financial institutions, through your attorney, that monies were wrongfully withdrawn from your account. In some situations, if you act quickly a financial institution may even be able to reverse a fraudulent transaction. Regardless, and even if the time to reverse a transaction has passed, you must immediately notify your financial institution to prevent any future theft or embezzlement. If the fraud is ongoing or there is a potential for future theft, this step is critical.

Step 3: Report the Theft to Law Enforcement Though Your Attorney

If you believe you are a victim of theft, you must report the crime to law enforcement through your attorney. Unfortunately, many victims of embezzlement or civil theft are reluctant to report the crime to law enforcement because the perpetrator is often someone they do not want to get in trouble (i.e. a family member or trusted friend). Failing to report the theft to law enforcement is sometimes a critical mistake made by inexperienced attorneys or victims who want to protect their perpetrator.

Step 4: Gather Evidence

After your financial institution and law enforcement are notified that you were a victim of theft or embezzlement, the next step in your case involves the gathering of evidence by you and your civil theft attorney. This is another critical step as it enables the attorney to investigate your case and locate potentially liable third parties.

Step 5: File a civil case

After your attorney has investigated the merits of your case, a civil theft case can be filed on your behalf by a civil theft attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions about Civil Theft

What are Civil Theft Statutes?

Civil theft statutes are laws that allow victims of theft to bring civil lawsuits for special damages, which may include interest, attorneys’ fees and triple damages. These laws are in addition to “common law” claims of fraud, conversion and unjust enrichment, which do not allow victims to seek attorneys’ fees. Please contact one of our civil theft attorneys to discuss this in greater detail.

What is the Difference Between Civil Theft and Conversion?

Conversion is a common law claim that is filed against someone who takes property without permission. Civil theft is a term that is often used to describe state statues that codify common law conversion claims and add certain remedies to victims, which may include interest and attorneys’ fees.

Which States Have Civil Theft Statutes?

Florida, Connecticut and Minnesota are examples of states that have civil theft statutes, but they are not the only ones. If you would like to know if your state has a civil theft statute, please contact an attorney today.

Does Liability Insurance Cover Employee Theft of Funds?

Standard commercial liability insurance alone will probably not cover losses related to civil theft. For this reason, many companies purchase insurance products known as “fidelity bonds,” which will cover civil theft.

Are Companies Legally Responsible for Their Employee’s Theft of Funds From a Customer?

Generally, yes, employers may be held legally liable for their employee’s theft of customer funds.

Won’t the Prosecutor Help Me get my Money Back?

Generally, no. Most cases involving theft end with sentencing and a “restitution order,” which is a court order directing the criminal to compensate his/her victims. Most restitution orders are never satisfied, and victims of theft often need to pursue separate legal claims against solvent third parties who are also legally responsible for the theft.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Civil Theft?

The law pertaining to civil theft is different in every jurisdiction. As a result, the statute of limitations varies from state to state. Please contact a civil theft attorney with any questions you may have about your state’s laws. As you may know, do not delay.

What is the Difference Between Civil Theft and Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a term used to describe the crime of stealing money and civil theft is a phrase used to describe laws that enable victims of embezzlement to file civil lawsuits.

Next Steps

If you or someone you know was the victim of civil theft, please call 212-658-1500 for a free and confidential attorney consultation. The law may limit the time you have to seek money damages so it is important that you do not delay.