Theft by Conversion Law & Legal Definition


Theft by conversion occurs when someone wrongfully uses property or funds of another for their own purposes.

Example of a state statute on theft by conversion.

In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 16-8-4 defines theft by conversion as follows:

§ 16-8-4. Theft by conversion

(a) A person commits the offense of theft by conversion when, having lawfully obtained funds or other property of another including, but not limited to, leased or rented personal property, under an agreement or other known legal obligation to make a specified application of such funds or a specified disposition of such property, he knowingly converts the funds or property to his own use in violation of the agreement or legal obligation. This Code section applies whether the application or disposition is to be made from the funds or property of another or from the accused's own funds or property in equivalent amount when the agreement contemplates that the accused may deal with the funds or property of another as his own.

(b) When, under subsection (a) of this Code section, an officer or employee of a government or of a financial institution fails to pay on an account, upon lawful demand, from the funds or property of another held by him, he is presumed to have intended to convert the funds or property to his own use.

(c)(1) As used in this subsection, the term "personal property" means personal property having a replacement cost value greater than $100.00, excluding any late fees and penalties, and includes heavy equipment as defined in paragraph (2) of Code Section 10-1-731 and tractors and farm equipment primarily designed for use in agriculture.

(2) Any person having any personal property in such person's possession or under such person's control by virtue of a lease or rental agreement who fails to return the personal property within five days, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays excluded, after a letter demanding return of the personal property has been mailed to such person by certified or registered mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested, at such person's last known address by the owner of the personal property or by the owner's agent shall be presumed to have knowingly converted such personal property to such person's own use in violation of such lease or agreement.

(3) In the event that any personal property is not returned as provided for in the lease or rental agreement and the court orders the lessor or renter to pay replacement costs, replacement costs shall include but not be limited to:

(A) The market value of the personal property. The market value shall be established by the owner of the property by providing from a supplier of such or reasonably similar personal property a current quotation of the value of the personal property which is of like quality, make, and model of the personal property being replaced. The value to be awarded shall be the higher of:

(i) The value on the date when the conversion occurred; or

(ii) The value on the date of the trial;

(B) All rental charges from the date the rental agreement was executed until the date of the trial or the date that the property was recovered, if recovered; and

(C) Interest on the unpaid balance each month at the current legal rate from the date the court orders the lessor or renter to pay replacement costs until the date the judgment is satisfied in full.

(4) If as a part of the order of the court the lessor or renter is placed on probation, supervision of said probation shall not be terminated until all replacement costs, fees, charges, penalties, interest, and other charges are paid in full. All payments relative to this Code section shall be made to the appropriate court of jurisdiction and the court shall make distribution to the owner within 30 days of receipt thereof.

(5) In the event that the owner incurs any expenses in the process of locating a lessor or renter who did not return any personal property according to the lease or rental agreement, the court shall provide that the lessor or renter reimburse the owner for those expenses which may include, but not be limited to, credit reports, private detective fees, investigation fees, fees charged by a law enforcement agency for such services as police reports, background checks, fees involved with swearing out a warrant for incarceration, and any other bona fide expenses.