Robert Ira Aronson, 63, was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida for 1st degree grand theft. He is alleged to have embezzled over $200,000 a corporation owned by Bob Lappin. For those who are not up to speed on their Palm Beach whos-who, Bob Lappin is the conductor who established the Palm Beach Pops. According to its website, the Palm Beach Pops is a world-class pops orchestra located in, you guessed it, Palm Beach.
Following his arrest, Aronson was released after posting a $15,000 bond.
Prior to his resignation this past February, Aronson worked as Director of Business and Finance for the Pops orchestra. Aronson supposedly resigned in protest when Lappin failed to advise the Pop’s board that its general manager, Jill Kaplan, had filed a complaint months earlier with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Kaplan later filed suit in federal court alleging that Lappin had forced her into a long term affair. That case is still pending.
According to the police report, Aronson allegedly transferred money from Lappin’s corporate accounts to his personal account. When Lappin learned that the amount transferred was nearly $200,000, Lappin decided to report the matter to law enforcement.
Aronson allegedly admitted to taking $50,000 to a private investigator, although police claim that they totaled in excess of $191,000. The funds were also said to have been used to pay his mortgage and other personal expenses. Aronson is also said to have given himself unauthorized vacation pay and raises, totally in excess of $3,000.00
As a criminal defense lawyer, I can tell you that we cannot draw any conclusions without first getting a better understanding of the facts. When crimes like these occur, the offenders are usually charged with taking more money than they actually stole.
Especially in the corporate world, when someone steals and gets caught, they become the accounting explanation for every penny that is missing or wasn’t added correctly.
Most people’s initial reaction is usually to let the guilty suffer as a consequence of their actions. However, such notions are not what out criminal justice system is founded on.
A person should only be punished for the crime that can be proven.
When it comes to theft, this is very important because the more money that is stolen, the more sever the offense is. For example, if someone steals $100, they are only criminally liable for petit theft (which is only a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or a year of probation).
In contrast, if someone were to steal $1,000.00, they would be liable for 3rd degree grand theft, which is punishable by up to five years in prison (not jail) or five years of probation.
Depending on how much value a person is accused of stealing, he or she may be liable for a second degree felony (punishable by up to fifteen years in prison) or a first degree felony (punishable by up to thirty years in prison).
The other defense lawyers will need to consider whether or not his alleged confession to a private investigator is credible. First, was the confession recorded or memorialized in any way? Second, were there other witnesses or is this a case where the investigators claim is uncorroborated. Remember, this private investigator was probably hired by Lappin to build a case around Aronson.
Third, do the accounting records prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Aronson stole the money? Is there any reason to believe that he had permission from Lappin to take those funds?
I am not drawing any conclusions here. No one should. This case needs to be investigated thoroughly and each and every claim made by prosecutors, Lappin, and police needs to be scrutinized by Aronson’s criminal lawyer.
If there are any conflicts in the evidence, a lack of evidence, or a reasonable doubt, then the charges cannot stand.
It must be recalled that this case is brought by the State and it is the prosecutor’s job to prove each and every allegation. Aronson has no duty to do anything. He does not have to rebut the prosecutors claims or Lappin’s allegations. On the contrary, it is their job to prove they are telling the truth.
Grand theft is a common case that is usually resolved without the need for prison. Prosecutors usually use the threat of prison to compel defendants into plea bargain agreements that require aggressive restitution payments. In exchange for agreeing to pay restitution, defendants get probation instead of prison.
However, this is no guarantee.
In some cases, the victim is so angry and hurt by the fact that a person so close to them has hurt them in such an intimate way, that all they care about is prison. In fact, the closer the offender was to the victim, the more intense feelings of betrayal and anger can be.
In the end, I hope that justice will prevail for all parties involved. Certainly, Aronson’s criminal history, or lack thereof, will play a deciding factor in any plea negotiations with prosecutors.