Embezzlement occurs when an individual steals money or property from their employer. This is a serious accusation to face and can result in surprisingly harsh criminal consequences. In order for prosecutors to convict an individual of this crime, they must prove at all four key elements of embezzlement are present.
First, basic ownership must be established. The prosecution must be able to prove that the stolen or misused assets did not belong to the defendant. It may belong to the defendant’s boss, the company as a whole, or another third party. All that must be proven is that it did not belong to the defendant.
In embezzlement cases, it must be established that the defendant at one point had legal possession of the stolen property. For example, they worked in finance and were legally in possession of company profits. However, the crime becomes embezzlement once the defendant conducts illegal activity with, or takes unauthorized ownership of, the property they were legally possessing.
This component of legal possession is what differentiates embezzlement from a general theft crime. With a general theft crime, the defendant is never in legal possession of the stolen money or property.
It must be established that the defendant had a duty to care for the money or property, and was in a trust relationship with the alleged victim. This is also known as a fiduciary duty. An individual breaches fiduciary duty when they commit embezzlement. In many cases, this is the relationship between employers and employees.
The final crucial element is that the defendant must have had the intent to defraud the alleged victim. Many crimes cannot occur without intent. However, embezzlement is unique in that it may be committed accidentally or without the defendant knowing that what they were doing was illegal.
Lack of intent is a strong defense against embezzlement charges.
If you’ve recently been accused of committing embezzlement, contact our team at Law Office of Kevin Cahill as soon as possible. This is a serious offense with severe potential penalties. Speak with our strategic and experienced white-collar crimes attorney today: call (720) 548-2990.