What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is the theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust. A term typically heard in the business world, an embezzlement charge may be given against an individual or by a group of individuals who have allegedly mishandled assets for personal gain. Literally speaking, the act of embezzlement is not limited to the corporate world.

For instance, a clerk in a retail store can embezzle cash assets from the register of the store. A lawyer could embezzle funds from a client. A company head could embezzle funds from an investor. The spouse of a company worker could, theoretically, embezzle funds from a partner. As you can imagine, embezzlement crimes can vary greatly and require different sentencing according to the nature of the crime committed. Some crimes will only involve small amounts of money and may not require heavy sentencing. On the other hand, embezzling large amounts of money, and developing complex schemes in order to evade detection would demand a greater punishment.

Corporate Embezzlement

In the corporate world, because of expected nature of security measures, embezzlement must be premeditated and methodical with the intent to conceal. For a person to succeed in embezzling, the perpetrator is usually a trusted member of an organization. To evade detection, he or she will embezzle a fraction of the funds available. If done successfully the embezzler could continue with dishonest gain for multiple years without ever being noticed.

Embezzlement is not considered the same crime as larceny, defined as the unlawful taking of someone’s personal property. With embezzlement, a conversion must take place; the original taking of the property (or funds) was not illegal. Conversion requires that the secretion performed interferes with the property. These specific details suggest that embezzlement does not always involve blatant acts of stealing. Embezzlement is a criminal offense of deceit, broken trust, and the theft of one’s assets through a detailed scheme.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

Depending on the severity of the crime, an act of embezzlement may qualify as a misdemeanor or a felony. Defense of an embezzlement charge may involve explaining mitigating circumstances or specific questions pertaining to the company industry. Even in cases where evidence of embezzlement is strong, experienced defense lawyers can push for a substantially reduced sentence.

The judge of the trial will pay close attention to the value of the item(s) taken and let this amount influence the punishment. Misdemeanor cases usually involve petty cash embezzlement and shoplifting crimes of $400 and less. Items over that cash amount are typically prosecuted as felony grand theft.

Naturally, in the instance of a repeat offender, the court is more obliged to increase the sentence. Even repeat misdemeanor convictions can result in a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Felony convictions for embezzlement, such as in grand theft cases, may result in county jail prison sentences with fines exceeding thousands of dollars. Lastly, the convicted must pay back all funds to the victim.