Embezzlement is a crime based on breaking trust for personal financial gain. It is commonly carried out in an employer/employee situation but is not limited to employment relationships and is frequently found in fiduciary relationships as well.
A simple example of an employee embezzlement occurs in retail stores or restaurants where the employee devises a way to siphon money from the cash register without creating a noticeable discrepancy. Similarly, an hourly employee could falsify his or her overtime records by developing a system that allows him or her to punch out long after leaving work. Those working in a company’s payroll department or accounts receivable can also carry out embezzlement schemes by creating fictitious accounts, hiding assets, or manipulating account balances. The crime can also be committed by people with fiduciary responsibilities such as corporate board members. The only real limitation on embezzlement is the embezzler’s imagination.
The Difference between Embezzlement and Larceny
At the core of every embezzlement accusation, the prosecution alleges that someone took property that did not belong to them. This sounds a lot like larceny but major differences exist. With larceny, the accused never had lawful possession of someone else’s property. With embezzlement, however, the accused lawfully possessed someone else’s property due to their position of trust and confidence. Furthermore, with larceny, the accused must have physically moved or relocated the stolen property. Embezzlement only requires the accused to move funds or property through a ledger or some other deceptive instrument.
Embezzlement cases are often complex and involve complicated financial questions. As a result, the prosecution often needs to conduct in-depth investigations to build their case. Unlike most crimes, the victim in an embezzlement allegation is usually the accused’s employer or company. This means law enforcement agencies can acquire relevant documentation without having to obtain a warrant. Unfortunately, the more access the prosecution has, the more difficult it becomes for the accused to fight embezzlement charges.
Federal Charges, State Charges, and Civil Cases
Both federal and state authorities can file embezzlement charges. Criminal penalties vary according to the value of the money or property stolen. In Nebraska state courts, a person can be fined $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 20 years. Whereas under federal law, embezzling anything of value that belongs to the United States government can result in a fine of $250,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment. In addition to criminal penalties, victims of embezzlement schemes can bring civil actions to recover losses. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help develop effective defense strategies to minimize these consequences. It is not unusual for a person fighting criminal charges to also be facing a concurrent civil law suit. The defense attorney must understand how actions in the criminal case may affect the civil case and vice-versa
The attorneys at Berry Law Firm fight false embezzlement allegations. We seek to uncover false assumptions, motives and contradictory evidence against our clients. If you have been accused of embezzlement, contact Berry Law Firm.