Embezzlement is unique compared to other property theft crimes because it involves theft by someone entrusted with managing or monitoring the property. In other words, the person accused of embezzlement had legal control over the property but lacked lawful ownership of said property. This differs from someone who merely steals someone's property because, in this scenario, the person is not in a position of trust.

Embezzlement rises to a federal crime when it involves property (worth $1,000 or more) owned by the United States government or through a contract between someone and the government.

The Elements of Embezzlement

Typically, federal prosecutors charge embezzlement in the context of Mail, Wire, Securities, or Bank Fraud. In doing so, the prosecutors have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the four elements of embezzlement (found in 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A):

  1. There was a trust or fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the private organization or State or local government agency;
  2. The property came into the possession or care of the defendant by virtue of his/her employment;
  3. The defendant's dealings with the property constituted a fraudulent conversion or appropriation of it to his/her own use; and
  4. The defendant acted with the intent to deprive the owner of the use of this property.
What is a “Position of Trust?”

Someone is in a "position of trust" either by the nature of their position or circumstances. For example, a bank teller or service clerk is in a position of trust because they have control over their customer's money. The same goes for a family member caring for a sick loved one by monitoring their finances or a lawyer overseeing a client’s trust account.

Common Embezzlement Charges

Title 18, Chapter 31, of the United States Code, provides various federal embezzlement offenses. Here are few:

  • Embezzlement of public money, property, or records (18 U.S.C. § 641)
  • Embezzlement by officers, employees, or agents of the federal government (18 U.S.C. § 643)
  • Embezzlement of tool and materials for the purpose of counterfeiting (18 U.S.C. § 645)
  • Embezzlement by bankers who knowingly receive unauthorized deposits of public funds (18 U.S.C. § 644)
Penalties for Embezzlement

Typically, the sentences for federal embezzlement offenses are largely the same. Upon conviction of embezzling more than $1,000, one can face a fine of up to $250,000 or double the amount embezzled (whichever is greater), a prison sentence up to 10-years, or both. For those convicted of embezzling less than $1,000, the penalties are significantly less; a fine of up to $100,000, a year in jail, or both.

Legal Counsel

The mere thought of someone going to prison, having to pay steep financial penalties, and then having a criminal record for the rest of their life is enough to give one pause. Hence, it is so essential that one has legal counsel to guide them through every step away. Having an attorney can put you at ease because you will know that someone is working for you and striving to keep your reputation and life intact.

Peter Katz is an experienced former State and Federal prosecutor who has prosecuted many white-collar cases during his over two-decade career. Peter is ready to bring that experience to your case and work tirelessly on your behalf to protect you and your rights. Call the Law Offices of Peter Katz at (609) 734-4380 or online to begin preparing your defense today!