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Embezzlement Q&A: What it is, why it matters

Embezzlement is an act in which someone steals or misuses assets that were entrusted to them. This most commonly happens in the workplace when an employee is responsible for the company's accounts or finances and misuses that money for personal gain.

Anyone that has been entrusted with another's property, especially at work, may be wondering about the answers to these common questions about embezzlement.

Q: How often does embezzlement happen?

A: According to Kroll Inc.'s report, 81% of all firms were victims of fraud last year. In short, the answer is that embezzlement is very common. The severity ranges, as not all embezzlement involves theft of enormous sums of money. However, most companies are at risk of being embezzled. If you have any responsibilities for your company's finances, it's important to understand what factors are present in an embezzlement so you know how to protect yourself.

Q: How is embezzlement different from theft?

A: Theft is a term that can include many different types of charges, but embezzlement is different from other forms of theft in one key way. Embezzlement requires that the assets in question were entrusted to the person. If an employee takes company money, they could still be charged with some form of theft, like larceny, but in order for this example to constitute embezzlement, that employee would have to have received responsibility for that money from the company.

Q: How serious is embezzlement?

A: Embezzlement is taken very seriously. In most cases, embezzlement is considered a felony. Jail time is common if someone is found guilty of embezzling. Depending on how much property was taken/misused, jail time could range from 5 to 10 years or possibly longer. Usually the accused person must also repay all of the money that was embezzled.

Q: What should I do if I am accused of embezzling?

A: The most important thing to do if embezzlement charges are brought against you is to contact an attorney. Embezzlement cases can be complicated. Many factors are at play and court decisions depend on many nuances, such as proving intent. Do not try to face embezzlement charges on your own. Having an experienced lawyer at your side will help you through the process and give you the best possible protection from the charges brought against you.

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