On June 23, a former New Jersey transit union finance officer pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $120,000 from his union. His plea was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

According to media reports, the 57-year-old defendant worked as a bus driver and was elected as the financial secretary for Dover’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1614 in 2014. During his term, which ran until May 2019, he used his access to the union’s three checking accounts to withdraw around $117,000. He reportedly used this money to pay various personal debts, including his rent, telephone bill, utilities and more. All the withdrawals were made without the knowledge or approval of union officials.

The case was investigated by special agents from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. The defendant, who now lives in Tampa, Florida, was charged with one count of embezzlement on Dec. 5, 2019. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 17, 2020. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

As this case demonstrates, defendants charged with embezzlement and other white-collar crimes can be sentenced to years in prison and assessed thousands of dollars in fines. However, with the help of a criminal defense attorney, it may be possible to fight such charges and avoid some or all of the associated penalties. After reviewing the case, the attorney may find evidence that counters the prosecution’s version of events, which could cause the charges to be dropped or help the defendant win an acquittal at trial. However, if the charges appear solid, the attorney might recommend negotiating a plea deal that reduces the charges in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea. If successful, this strategy could lead to a significantly lighter sentence.