Crime Overview Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating or secreting assets, usually financial in nature, by one more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted. Embezzlement is considered a white-collar crime. White-collar crimes are non-violent criminal acts committed for financial personal gain at the expense of another, generally in a business or other professional setting. Embezzlement occurs when a person who is trusted by a business misappropriates money or items for their financial benefit.

Embezzlement can be a criminal action in both state and federal courts. The jurisdiction depends on the specifics of the crime. Embezzlement can also be pursued through civil actions, leading to a judgment for damages, but not for jail time or a criminal record.

Embezzlement is different from theft or larceny because the embezzler legally assumes possession of the property in question. The problem ensues because the use of the property was not legally made. An embezzler has a relationship with the victim that places them in a position of trust; therefore, they are given access to financial records, receipts, payments, inventories or other things of value to the business in the course of their employment.

Embezzlement is a statutory offense, so the punishment for criminal embezzlement can vary depending on the situation, and can lead to sentences of up to 30 years in prison. Typical elements are the fraudulent conversion of the property of another by a person who has lawful possession of the property.

Sentences depend on the value of the property that was embezzled. However, most people convicted of embezzlement serve much less time than the maximum, perhaps even less than one year. While jail time for these crimes may seem lenient, it is often in addition to a forfeiture of personal assets and the destruction of promising careers. White-collar criminals never again regain the trust of employers, and that loss of professional and personal credibility will likely be the most damaging penalty.

There are four elements that must be proven to get a conviction in an embezzlement case. First, a fiduciary relationship must be established between the accused and the victim. Secondly, this relationship must be the basis for the accused to have access to and possession of the property in question. Next, it must be proved that the accused illegally assumed rights to the property. Finally, it must be proven that the actions by the accused were intentional.

In order for embezzlement to be fraudulent, the defendant must willfully and without the claim of right or mistake, convert the property to his or her own use. If the defendant had lawful possession, the crime is embezzlement. If the defendant merely had custody, the crime is then considered larceny. The distinction between the two can be extremely difficult to determine.

Embezzlement can involve falsification of records in order to hide the activity which is occurring. Embezzlers commonly take out small amounts continuously over a long period of time. Another method is to create a false vendor and supply false bills to the company being embezzled so the checks look to be legitimate.

If you have been accused of the crime of embezzlement, you will want to talk to a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in white-collar crimes. If you fear that you have become a victim of embezzlement, you may want to speak to an attorney who can advise you of your rights and options through both the civil and criminal courts.

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