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The White Collar Crime of Embezzlement

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is what is considered a “White Collar Crime” which occurs when someone steals property or money from another who has entrusted that person to manage or monitor his or her money or property. One element of the crime is that the defendant had legal access but not legal ownership for someone’s money or property.

When you combine the taking of money or property for one’s personal gain with the fact that the individual had been placed in a position of trust, this amounts to the crime of embezzlement.

There are a variety of ways embezzlement can and does occur. Some examples are:

  • An employee steels money from their employer.
  • A bank teller steels money from customers
  • A family member steels from a relative
  • A professional or board member steels from clients or members
  • Anyone in a position of trust with another’s money or property.

What is the Punishment for Embezzlement?

The punishment is determined based on the value of the property or the amount of money stolen. When someone embezzles property worth less than $950.00, petty theft, it is a misdemeanor. The defendant could face up to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000.00 and probation if convicted.

If the property embezzled is worth more than $950.00, this is considered grand theft and can be filed an either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances. If convicted of misdemeanor grand theft, the defendant could face up to one year in jail, fines and probation. However, if convicted of felony grand theft, the defendant faces the potential of 16 months, 2, or 3 years, in addition to fines.

However, the judge may impose more jail time and higher fines for aggravating factors. One example of this is an elder or defendant persons – Anyone who is in a position of taking care of an elderly or dependent person is someone who has been placed in a position of trust. In California, embezzling from an elder or dependent person is an aggravating factor.

An enhancement of up to five additional years may be added in situations where an individual is convicted of two or more felonies involving embezzlement, which loss resulted in more than $100,000.00.

There are defenses to these types of charges, which an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with.   Anyone who has been charged with embezzlement, or any white-collar crime, should seek the advice and assistance of an attorney who is experienced defending these types of crimes.