What is the Crime of Embezzlement?

by ShelbyW on August 16, 2012

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(US criminal law) Embezzlement is essentially the crime of misappropriating money that does not belong to you. The crime of embezzlement can occur in virtually any industry and many times goes undetected for weeks, months or even years. In some cases of embezzlement, the crime is not uncovered until an audit of a company’s finances happens, and even then, it can be difficult to prove that an individual has embezzled money. In virtually all situations where embezzlement is suspected, a full investigation will take place.

Why Do People Embezzle?

More often than not, the main cause of embezzlement is greed. Individuals who have access to large sums of someone else’s money may at first believe that taking just a small portion won’t actually harm anyone. Of course, this notion is false, but it then leads to taking more and more as time goes by. Embezzlers will often have personal challenges like gambling, drug abuse and debt which can all create an overwhelming temptation. The problem then becomes compounded, as the embezzling individual will generally try to cover their tracks. This only complicates the situation further and can lead to greater consequences.

Covering the Tracks

In order to cover up the crime, someone involved in embezzling money from a company may try to rewrite the company’s financial records. This may mean erasing profits and replacing them with debts, or it may mean adding in contributions that the company never made to charities or other organizations. Sometimes, a person involved in embezzling may try to hide the activity by sending money to a separate bank account that is not able to be easily tracked. Our Charlotte criminal defense lawyer states that in some cases, embezzlers will try to make it look as if someone else in the company is actually the individual responsible for the missing money.

Penalties for Embezzlement

The penalties for embezzlement vary by state and severity of the crime. In some cases, an individual who embezzles small sums of money may only be charged with a misdemeanor, meaning they face less than a year in jail and fines not to exceed $1,000. Individuals who are caught embezzling large sums of money over the course of months or years may face felony charges, leading to many years of incarceration in a federal prison and fines that can range into the tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, a person who has been found guilty of embezzlement may be ordered to pay restitution for any money that was taken.

Avoiding Accusations

One of the best ways to avoid accusations of embezzlement is to have multiple people in your company check over your financial work on a regular basis. Having multiple people checking on your work and the work of others who handle the company’s finances will make it more difficult for an individual or small group of individuals to embezzle money. This then means that the chances of you being accused of embezzlement go down, and you will have a stronger defense if you do find yourself charged with embezzlement.

If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, it may be a good idea to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to examine all aspects of your case and help you to prove your innocence. As mentioned, the penalties for embezzlement can be quite severe, so don’t take your chances.

Shelby Warden is a legal researcher and contributing author for the North Carolina law firm of Powers McCartan. If you have been charged with embezzlement you deserve a strong defense. Contact Powers McCartan to speak to a skilled and experienced Charlotte criminal defense lawyer and learn about your defense options.

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