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Understanding the foundation of embezzlement charges

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | blog, Embezzlement

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that involves the fraudulent appropriation of money or property entrusted to the embezzling party. Unfortunately, people might face false accusations and not know how to respond.

An embezzlement charge can carry serious penalties, so it is important to understand the key legal elements prosecutors must prove.

Understanding the target of the embezzlement

At its core, embezzlement involves the theft of money, funds or assets that an organization or person other than the perpetrator owns. Common examples include an employee stealing from a company or someone misusing money from a trust or estate. The assets involved must have been legally entrusted to the person for them to then misappropriate.

Considering the intent to defraud

An essential component of any embezzlement allegation is evidence that the perpetrator knowingly took part in fraudulent activity with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of funds or assets. Without proving intent, there may be poor accounting or financial mismanagement, but likely no crime.

Establishing access to the funds

A key distinction between embezzlement and ordinary theft is that embezzlement requires that the person have lawful access for a time. For example, an employee may have authorization to transfer funds for legitimate purposes, enabling the crime. The access is then abused when assets are ultimately kept or spent illegally.

Understanding exactly what constitutes embezzlement under the law is essential for anyone facing such serious accusations. Building a sound defense starts with a comprehensive understanding of the law and the burden of proof on the prosecution.