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Is there a difference among fraud, embezzlement, and theft?

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense, White Collar Crimes |

“Taking money without permission” might serve as a general description of various criminal activities. Theft might be the South Carolina crime that comes to people’s minds first when discussing “stealing money,” but embezzlement involves taking the same illegal action. And then there’s fraud, another crime that entails separating people from their money under dubious circumstances. Specific differences exist between these three crimes, and the differences are worth examining.

Understanding the variances of three crimes

Theft refers to stealing someone else’s property to deprive that individual of the property permanently. A burglar who breaks into a home or business to remove and illegally resell consumer electronics commits theft. So does a shoplifter who takes someone out of a store, including items of little monetary value. Of course, the penalties for stealing something worth less than $5 would not be as severe as the sanctions for stealing something valued at $5,000.

Embezzlement also focuses on taking someone’s property or money with no intention of returning anything. However, embezzlement-related crimes could be far more sophisticated. Embezzlement crimes typically occur in a business setting and involve someone diverting the company’s money for personal gain.

Fraud commonly involves fooling a victim into handing over money. For example, a mail-order business that never intends to deliver any goods or services may commit fraud. Knowingly selling someone something that does not work as promised could be another form of fraud.

The criminal penalties might be harsh

Petty theft and shoplifting won’t likely lead to a long prison sentence, but those convicted of these crimes may end up with a permanent record. Embezzlers and fraudsters could look at significant prison time for their actions, though.

Persons convicted of federal fraud or embezzlement charges may face worse sanctions. Defendants might rely heavily on an attorney for a plea deal when dealing with federal or state charges.