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What is embezzlement?

Many Californians know that embezzlement is a serious crime, but are a bit fuzzy on what, exactly, it entails. Embezzlement is theft of money or property by an individual who has been entrusted to watch over them. This is why embezzlement often arises in an employment context, where employees are accused of stealing money from the business. For example, a bank teller is trusted to handle the bank's money and to ensure accounts are credited and debited accurately. If a bank teller starts pocketing money and falsifying account records in an attempt to hide his or her tracks, then embezzlement has occurred.

There are typically four elements that must be shown in order for prosecutors to obtain a criminal conviction. First, there must be a fiduciary relationship, meaning the accuser must have some sort of reliance on the accused individual. In the above bank teller example, the bank relies on the teller to handle its money without stealing it, so a fiduciary relationship exists. Second, the accused individual must have obtained the property as part of the relationship. Third, the accused must have acquired ownership of the money or assets. Lastly, the accused individual must have intentionally committed these acts.

While embezzlement is often considered a state crime, it can also fall under federal jurisdiction when the theft occurs from the federal government. These types of allegations are quite serious and can result in significant penalties, including prison and fines. Having such a conviction on one's criminal record may also make it extremely difficult for him or her to find work.

With a lot to lose, those accused of white collar crimes, including embezzlement, should put forth an aggressive criminal defense. Hopefully with a little help these individuals can avoid serious consequences that could really change their lives for the worse.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement," accessed on Aug. 16, 2014

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement," accessed on Aug. 16, 2014

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