The word “embezzlement” conjures images of a financial planner skimming their client’s retirement account or Little League treasurer looting uniform deposits – all for personal pleasure. But it is far from a black-and-white offense. The components are complex, and the circumstances can be very nuanced.
Embezzlement is a serious white-collar crime that can result in jail time and fines, depending on the value of the property taken. Anyone working in sales, accounting or banking should be wary. Mishandling money can be an easy mistake to make. But it should not brand you an embezzler.
Charging embezzlement does not prove it
According to federal law, embezzlement is financial fraud in which a person entrusted with property or funds converts them into personal use. New York statutes include embezzlement with larceny. They further define property as “computer data and programs, utilities or any article, substance or thing of value … which is provided for a charge or compensation.”
To prove embezzlement, the prosecution generally must establish the following elements:
- The person controlling the funds had a connection or relationship with its private or government owner.
- Their entrusted job allowed them to manage accounts, payroll systems, credit cards, petty cash or signatories.
- They exploited that authority to convert the property for personal use.
- They acted with intent to withdraw funds or deprive the owner use of their property.
Authorities can portray the facts a certain way, but their stories may not capture the whole picture. Handshake deals and verbal commitments can be subject to misinterpretation. Sometimes courts dismiss charges because investigators failed to follow procedures when gathering evidence.
Know how to fight
Honest mistakes happen. Maybe you thought you had a right to the property in question or spent funds on something you believed was approved.
Accusations of embezzlement can jeopardize your career and future job prospects beyond the criminal ramifications. It is important to review the facts surrounding your case and know what options you can pursue to protect your freedom and livelihood.