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Embezzlement charges explained

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2023 | White-Collar Crime

Many professionals in Edwardsville and Madison County handle money and other valuables on their clients’ behalf. Accountants, attorneys, stockbrokers and others commonly have access to their clients’ bank accounts, investment portfolios and money put into escrow. Clients trust that these white-collar professionals are handling their valuables in their best interests and for their intended purpose. Also, businesses entrust certain employees with access to company credit cards and bank accounts to help them do their jobs.

When someone is accused of abusing that trust and spending money belonging to a client or employer on themselves, that person has allegedly committed embezzlement. This is a highly serious white-collar crime under federal law. If convicted, you would face prison time, hefty fines and the destruction of your professional reputation and career.

The elements of federal-level embezzlement

The federal statute criminalizing embezzlement requires that prosecutors prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A trust or fiduciary relationship existed between the defendant and victim.
  • The property came into the defendant’s care through their employment.
  • The defendant used the property in a way that constitutes a conversion (theft) or appropriation for their own use.
  • The defendant intended to deprive the owner of the use of the property.

The last element in the list makes embezzlement a specific intent crime, meaning it must be proven the defendant intentionally took or used property belonging to someone else. However, it is not a defense to say that the defendant intended to return the money or property, or even that they did so. Even temporarily taking the property can be embezzlement.

Don’t hesitate

If you have been charged with embezzlement, or even if you believe you are under investigation, you have no time to waste. You have rights in any criminal law matter, but protecting those rights is largely up to you. This starts with finding a defense attorney experienced in white-collar crime to represent you.