Does taking office items for personal use constitute embezzlement?

| Sep 9, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Embezzlement is one of the most notorious and well-known white-collar crimes. It is an offense that typically involves an individual stealing money from their employer, and many people consider a serious breach of ethics because it involves the violation of the trust that an employer places in their workers.

However, not all theft crimes and not all embezzlement involves cash or financial accounts. Both theft and embezzlement can also involve physical property or assets, ranging from electronics to office supplies. What kind of behavior constitutes embezzlement, and could your employer pursue embezzlement charges against you because you took a pack of pens home from work?

Intentional misappropriation for financial gain could lead to charges

While companies definitely lose money when their staff members take sticky notes, ballpoint pens or full reams of paper home with them, it is unlikely that they will want the state to charge you over such behavior. They may discipline you or possibly terminate you from your position, but the chances of them pursuing criminal charges over a few dollars’ worth of office supplies is minimal.

Workers are more likely to incur risk by taking items that have higher value from their employers, such as printers or computers, as well as by taking those smaller and cheaper items in large quantities, possibly with the intention of reselling them for profit. Intentionally abusing return or gift card policies, improperly claiming spending as business expenses or pocketing petty cash are also behaviors that may prompt more aggressive responses from your employer.

What other forms does embezzlement take?

Anytime you intentionally deprive your employer of the value of an asset, whether it is money transferred into an account or physical property, but that could potentially constitute embezzlement. Wire fraud, which involves an individual transferring money from a business account for their own personal gain, is one well-known and common form of embezzlement.

Creating fraudulent loans or fake employees for payroll, taking home raw production materials and even using viruses to take money from digital transactions are all potential forms of embezzlement. Facing such charges can affect not just your current job, but your future employability. Fighting back with a carefully planned defense strategy can help protect your reputation and your freedom when a company claims that you embezzled.