The crime of embezzlement

On Behalf of | May 17, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Theft laws in Ohio cover many types of crimes, which include embezzlement, with varying penalties. Embezzlement classifies as a white-collar crime, or non-violent crime committed for personal gain.

Overview of embezzlement

Embezzlement occurs when an individual or group steals property entrusted to them or gave them permission to use. While the offender doesn’t commonly make threats, they gain the trust of the victims and breach the trust. They may convert the property to cash, misappropriate cash or assets, or allow an unauthorized third-party to use the property.

Embezzlement commonly occurs on the job, such as pocketing cash from registers, stealing supplies, or altering time records. Data shows 1.75% of employees have committed embezzlement and men account for 70% of embezzlers in the workplace without a previous offense.

Embezzlement may also occur with a trust that holds property, such as selling assets without permission and keeping the funds. Ponzi schemes are another example of embezzlement, which promises investors high returns at no risk, but the profits come from early investors.

Defenses and required elements

The prosecution is required to prove the defendant had the intent to misuse the property, but criminal defense could argue the defendant lacked intent. The defendant must have been placed in charge of the assets through a fiduciary relationship with the plaintiff. The defendant must have gained ownership of the assets, gave the property to someone else, or destroyed or hid them.

The defendant may also claim they were under duress, or threat of harm or job loss, if they didn’t participate. Another defense is entrapment, which is coercion by a government entity without threats of harm to get a person to commit crimes.

Charges of embezzlement come with stiff fines and jail terms, and victims can file civil cases. Ignorance of the law is seldom a valid defense, but misunderstandings happen. A good defense team may attempt to cast doubt or work a plea deal.

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