Recent research shows embezzlement costs U.S. businesses as much as $50 billion each year. With so much money going out the door, it's no wonder security and anti-theft schemes are big business for wary corporations.
Unfortunately, the additional security means honest people can get caught up in embezzlement charges. If that should happen to you, it's important you know about embezzlement and how to fight the charges.
Embezzlement is most often fought on the state level. In California, there are four factors that bring a charge of embezzlement:
- A fiduciary relationship between two parties
- The defendant gained money or goods through this relationship
- The defendant gained ownership of the money or goods, or transferred it to someone else
- The defendant's actions were intentional
Accounting embezzlement is the most common form of the crime and can include fraudulent billing, false records, payments to nonexistent employees, and so on.
In California, theft of property under $950 is a petty theft charge punishable by six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Theft of more than $950 is felony grand theft and can be charged with up to three years in prison plus restitution.
The two keys to prosecute an embezzlement case are to show a fiduciary responsibility and to show the act was intentional.
To prove intent, the prosecution has to show a specific intent to defraud the victim through the fiduciary responsibility.
If the owner makes a demand for the return of the property, a defendant's refusal can be proof of criminal intent. If the owner doesn't make a demand, then the charge can be dropped to neglect.
The defendant can also claim that they acted in good faith and believed they had honest access to the goods, or that the property was taken during the scope of their duties.
It's also important to remember that any interview you give, whether it's to law enforcement or to your employer, can be used against you in court. If you are accused of embezzlement, it's best to get a lawyer on your side to determine a proper course of action.