State v. Gamble, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Dec. 1, 2020)

In July 2016, the defendant was the executive director of a nonprofit when she informed the board of directors that the nonprofit was out of money. Between 2012 and 2016, the balance of the nonprofit’s account had gone from $400,000 to $400. The SBI discovered $410,203.41 in unauthorized expenditures in the form of checks and credit card charges, all of which benefited the defendant. 

The defendant was charged with eight counts of embezzlement of property received by virtue of office or employment (G.S. 14-90); two of the counts alleged that the defendant embezzled property over $100,000 in value. A jury found the defendant guilty of all charges and at sentencing the defendant plead guilty to two aggravating factors: “one of the offenses involving unauthorized credit card transactions and all three offenses involving unauthorized checks ‘involved an . . . actual taking of property of great monetary value.’” Slip op. at 3. The trial court applied these aggravating factors to the defendant’s conviction of embezzling $202,242.62 in the year 2015 and sentenced the defendant within the aggravated range of 92-123 months.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by imposing a sentence in the aggravated range because the “great monetary value” aggravating factor could not be applied because the value embezzled, $202,242.62, was not far greater than the $100,000 amount required to support a conviction of Class C felony embezzlement under G.S. 14-90(c). See slip op. at 4. The Court of Appeals rejected the defendant’s argument saying that it would not make determinations based on a rigid ratio. The Court of Appeals noted that the amount embezzled was more than twice the $100,000 threshold and stated that “$202,242.64 is, from the standpoint of an ordinary person, a great value of money.” Therefore, “the trial court did not err by applying the aggravating factor of ‘taking of property of great monetary value’ when sentencing [the] [d]efendant.” Slip op. at 6-7.