Federal and Washington law enforcement investigate and prosecute white collar crimes or nonviolent offenses that were allegedly committed for financial gain. Embezzlement is one of these crimes where a person or entity misappropriates assets or money that was entrusted to them. It is essentially a crime involving a violation of trust.
Embezzlement can take place on a large or small scale. On the lower end, it may include a cashier taking a few dollars from a store cash register. Or it can be as large as a corporate executive using fraudulent expense reports to transfer millions of dollars corporate funds into a personal account.
Punishment depends on the size and scale of the embezzlement. Offenders may face imprisonment and large fines.
Committing the crime
Individuals who are entrusted with an organization’s or business’ funds or property must maintain those assets for their intended and legal use. A person commits embezzlement when they intentionally obtain those funds and convert them for their personal use.
This may include depositing funds into apparently valid accounts. But the account is a fraudulent mechanism allowing that individual to misappropriate the money. An embezzler, for example, may manufacture bills and receipts for business activities or services that never occurred to cover up the illegal transfer of funds.
Embezzlers may conspire with another person who is falsely listed as a consultant, contractor, or vendor. The conspirator issue invoices and services for activities they never performed.
Some embezzlement schemes may be joined with other fraud such as Ponzi schemes. A Ponzi scheme embezzler tricks investors to entrust their money with them for investment on their behalf but the embezzler uses those funds for personal enrichment. Keeping this fraud ongoing typically involves getting new investors to bring in more money to satisfy earlier investors.
Embezzlement does not always include money. An embezzler may take real estate, vehicles, smartphones, electronic devices and other company or organization assets for their personal use.
Embezzlement is not restricted to the private or charitable sectors. Government officials or employees may take public funds for their own personal use. This may occur when there is disbursement of funds to seemingly comply with contracts or support projects, but the embezzler takes those funds.
Embezzlement can involve complicated investigations. In addition to possible imprisonment and fines, embezzlement charges can have long-term financial, career and reputational consequences. An attorney can help protect rights in these cases