Verb pronounced as \im-ˈbe-zəl, em-\
Definition of Embezzle:
to appropriate (as property entrusted to one's care) fraudulently to one's own use
If you search for the definition or meaning of the word embezzlement, you will find the above mentioned in the Merriam Webster. It is a very serious white-collar criminal offense. When someone wrongfully misappropriates funds or property owned by someone else entrusted under his care is said to have committed this fraud. When proven guilty, the person is penalized and punished. It is a very embarrassing situation of being charged under the law. One loses trust, their jobs, the social reputation earned over time and even risk being jailed, if convicted. The different types of frauds covered under these laws are check fraud, credit card frauds, property theft, misappropriation of funds, identity theft, etc.
What are the Laws
As explained above, embezzlement is the act that includes stealing large sums of money over time. Many states define the law as theft or larceny of assets. This includes money or property that is entrusted to a person for care. It is very common to witness such cases in the corporate world, business setups, and professional relationships. Most cases involve employees embezzling money from the company over a particular period or at once. Some cases involve a spouse misusing money or property of the partner without their knowledge. Many financial investors take unsuspecting investors for a ride by floating fraudulent schemes. Other areas where such cases can occur include banks, universities, hospitals, and even NGO's, where professionals tend to embezzle funds for their personal use. In a personal setup, cases involve fiduciary responsibilities. This means, some trusted person is handed over the money or property to overlook in the absence of the appropriate owner. This fiduciary relationship can exist between an insurance agent, family accountant, Board of Members, Trustees, etc.
How is Embezzlement Proven
There are certain factors on the basis of which a prosecutor can prove embezzlement. The prosecutor may put forth some of the following facts that help support the charge. These facts include the following:
- Both parties should have fiduciary relationship, i.e., the victim and the embezzler must have a relationship of trust between them.
- The property acquired by the embezzler must be entrusted to him through the relationship of trust and no other way.
- The embezzler should have had the specific intention of depriving his victim of his property or money by taking it as his own, fraudulently.
The sentences are carried out after considering the history of the defendant. The court will also consider all the mitigating factors that may have occurred. If the same carried out did not involve very large sums of money and some mitigating circumstances are found, the court may use some alternative sentences. These sentences include repayment of the money or funds embezzled along with additional fines and court charges.
Embezzlement is a statutory offense, and the punishments depends on the amount stolen. Each state has its own set of punishments and penalties. If the embezzlement was carried out against the property or money of elderly people, trusts, public accounts, people with special needs, person appointed by the government or officials holding offices, the punishments are more stringent. In some cases, the person convicted may be handed a jail sentence. The penalties may include:
- Jail term: Up to 10 years in case the embezzlement was carried out with public funds
- Fines and fees
- Community service
The penalties collected from the embezzler are on the basis of the value of money, funds, credits, securities, assets, property, proceeds from sale, or loan embezzled. This amount is called 'the value'. If the value does not exceed $500, it is termed as a Class A misdemeanor; if the value is over $500 and under $10,000, then it is a Class H felony. If the value turns out to be is over $10,000 and under $100,000 it is classified under a Class G felony. And if the value of misappropriation is over $100,000, then it is a Class E felony.
You may not find the punishment to be very harsh. However, being charged under these laws destroys the image of the person. Such an individual loses his creditability in society, and finds it difficult to earn back his job or clients. One has to start from scratch personally as well as professionally.