Theft offenses are among the most common crimes that occur in Illinois. Although stealing won’t always result in your imprisonment, it depends on the scale of the theft.
Recently, a former data specialist at the famous Field Museum in Chicago was sentenced to three years in a federal prison for stealing almost $1 million from the museum.
The Chicago Tribune reported Caryn Benson funded a “lavish lifestyle” with the items she stole including jewelry and luxury cars. She even managed to pay rent for a friend’s apartment on the South Side.
Lawyers acting for Caryn Benson pointed out she had never previously been in trouble with the law. They argued for as little as a year behind bars.
However, federal courts frequently hand down heavy sentences. U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang explained the three-year term by pointing out Benson abused the trust of a not-for-profit museum.
The judge pointed out she stole about $906,000 in membership fees and other proceeds over six years. He said the money could have been used for good causes such as boosting Chicago’s standing. The judge said:
"This is an important Chicago institution. It makes important contributions to the city and to the world, not just through visitors but all the behind-the-scenes scientific and historical research that it performs."
Museum officials pointed out Benson’s acts had an impact on the museum’s reputation. In a victim-impact letter, they said private donations fell off since her arrest. The museum's chief marketing officer said two years ago Benson stole from a museum at a time when it was struggling financially. It had to lay off employees.
Benson, a 39-year-old woman from Chicago, admitted one count of embezzlement last year.
In a plea agreement, she said she routinely took membership payments between June 2008 and April 2014. She kept
Benson said in her plea agreement she took a total of about $400,000. Prosecutors pointed to an internal museum audit. They said the actual amount she took was $906,000. More than $550,000 passed through her checking accounts although her salary during that whole that time totaled only about $140,000, prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors said she splashed out. She bought a four-carat diamond Joe Rodeo watch valued at $1,500, Gucci shoes and a handbag valued at over $1,400, as well as a gold chain worth 1,500, according to FBI reports.
The seriousness of theft crimes in Illinois depends on the value of good stolen. If you have been charged with a theft crime, please call our Chicago criminal defense lawyers at (312) 229-0008.