Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Understanding Embezzlement Charges

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement usually happens when an individual takes the property or money of another person, who has entrusted that individual with the responsibility of taking care of these assets for them. Embezzlement most often occurs in a business or employment setting. It is considered to be a white collar crime, and you should contact a criminal defense attorney when you are charged with embezzlement.

What are the Elements of Embezzlement?

For a person to be charged with embezzlement four elements must be present:

  • A fiduciary relationship (entrustment) between the two parties must be established

  • A perpetrator gained access to the property through a fiduciary relationship

  • A defendant must have taken ownership of the assets or transferred them over to another individual

  • A defendant intentionally committed the crime

How Does Embezzlement Happen?

Embezzlement can involve an employee who takes money from their employer. It may involve a bank teller, store clerk or financial advisor who takes money from a client or customer. It may include employees who have possession of company property, such as a company car, computer laptop or a corporate card. They use these items for their personal gain or individual use.

One of the most common forms of this crime is accounting embezzlement. This involves altering or changing records to cover up a theft involving money. The defendant is entrusted with the possession of the money and then is accused of using the money for their personal use or gain.

Many times, persons who commit embezzlement will take a lump sum of money at one time or they may steal small amounts of money over a longer period of time to afford getting caught.  Embezzlement may include falsifying records, fake billings, Ponzi schemes or creating payroll checks to non-existing employees.

What are Some Common Defenses Used in an Embezzlement Case?

Common defenses for embezzlement charges may include:

  • Duress: Forced to commit the crime through personal fear or potential physical harm

  • Not Enough Evidence: Insufficient evidence to prosecute a defendant in the case

  • Entrapment: Defendant was setup to commit the crime

  • No intent to commit a crime: Defendant intended to return the money or property

What are the Consequences of an Embezzlement Charge?

The consequences of an embezzlement charge can vary depending on the severity of the crime. In Massachusetts, an embezzlement charge is punishable under established larceny laws. Punishments may be established, according to the amount or valuation of the stolen property or money. In some cases, a conviction can result in up to five years in state prison or up to two years in jail, plus a hefty fine of up to $25,000.

What Should You Do if You are Charged with Embezzlement?

If you are a victim of embezzlement, you should call your local police. If the evidence warrants, law enforcement may submit your claim to the district attorney's office and start prosecution procedures. If you have been charged with committing embezzlement, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The consequences can be devastating and may include jail or prison time. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case.  Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.