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4 elements of embezzlement

Embezzlement is an example of fraud, a white-collar crime which consists of a theft by a person who is responsible for the assets of another person or entity. The crime is more common in banking or retail industries, but employees in any type of business can misappropriate money.

Some types of embezzlement include fraudulent billing, falsification of records, payroll checks to false employees or simply taking money out of a till. There are many more ways to embezzle money as well. 

For a charge of embezzlement to stick, the prosecutor must prove four different elements: 

  • The existence of a fiduciary relationship between the two parties (the defendant, the one charged with embezzlement, must be responsible for the property of the other person).
  • Through said relationship must be how the defendant acquired the property.
  • The defendant must have taken ownership of the property.
  • This action must have been taken intentionally by the defendant.

It is easy to accuse an employee of embezzlement, but proving all four elements of the crime can be much more difficult. The prosecution has the burden of proof.

Penalties for embezzlement largely depend on the amount stolen. Typically, a fine and restitution are required, but prison time may also be part of the sentence. Plaintiffs can pursue embezzlement through civil court as well as criminal court. An employer can sue an employee to get restitution, but the state can also prosecute the case.  

Embezzlement is a serious crime. If you have been charged with this type of theft, you may want to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you fight the charge. A conviction has severe consequences, and without taking appropriate action, you could lose your professional license or suffer other results of such an accusation.

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