When embezzlement occurs, an employee -- or individual in a position of trust -- steals property or money from the party that was trusting him or her. As embezzlement involves theft, it is considered to be a form of larceny.
Usually embezzlement relates to money or property that an employee steals or transfers into a bank account for his or her personal uses. It's one of the most common types of white collar crimes.
Who commits embezzlement?
Embezzlement often happens in corporate or business settings, and it's usually committed by accountants. However, anyone in charge of assets, who has the power to write checks or manipulate bank accounts on behalf of a company, could be in a position to commit embezzlement. Money managers, investment advisors, bankers and trustees of trusts may also be in a position where they could easily get away with embezzlement. Bank tellers and store clerks might also commit embezzlement.
Ultimately, being in any kind of position where you could easily commit embezzlement puts you at risk of a false embezzlement accusation. Imagine you're a bank teller and at the end of the day you discover -- to your horror -- that your till is short by $5,000. You didn't steal the money and you have no idea how it went missing, but now your boss is accusing you of embezzlement. Alternatively, imagine that a large amount of money goes missing from the corporate bank account you manage, but you can't figure out where it went.
Defending yourself against embezzlement charges
Whenever you're in charge of money for your job, and the money goes missing, accusations will fly. However, just because someone gets accused of embezzlement doesn't mean that the charges will stick. Four factors need to be present in order for an embezzlement charge to be valid:
- A fiduciary relationship existed between the accused and the accuser. In other words, the accusing party needs to prove that it was relying on you to act in his or best interests.
- The defending party obtained or stole the property by using his or her fiduciary relationship.
- The defending party took ownership of the stolen property or transferred ownership of the property to another individual.
- The defendant intentionally wanted to steal the property and knew what he or she was doing at the time it was stolen.
If the prosecution cannot prove that the above four factors were present in your case, then it's not likely your embezzlement charges will stick. As such, if you're defending yourself against an embezzlement charge, you will want to focus your arguments on these areas and why they are not true in your case.