Embezzlement is one of those terms that is commonly used but frequently misunderstood. While each state individually defines the crime of embezzlement, embezzlement is essentially the theft of property (i.e. assets) by an individual who is responsible for that property.

Embezzlement most frequently occurs in work environments when money or property is entrusted to an employee’s care and that employee decides to steal or use the property for their own gain.

While each state establishes their own individual laws, generally, the crime of embezzlement is defined as the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted. In other words, under the law, an individual embezzles when he/she unlawfully takes property that has been entrusted to their care. While embezzlement is a type of theft crime it is important to note that embezzlement requires a fiduciary relationship between the offender and the victim while larceny or theft does not.

Common Examples

Embezzlement comes in a variety of different forms, but some common examples include the following:

·       A waitress pocketing some cash after a customer pays their bill

·       Returning stolen items to a store in exchange for cash

·       A store clerk taking cash out of a wallet left in the store’s lost and found

·       A payroll manager adding a family member who does not work for the company to the payroll

·       Using a company’s expense account for personal expenses

·       An employee falsifying overtime records

·       An asset manager siphoning money out of client accounts and into their own account


Embezzlement is one of those criminal offenses that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depends mostly on the value of the property that was embezzled, although aggravating and mitigating factors are also sometimes taken into account.

In many states, if the value of the property embezzled was $950 or less than the crime will likely be classified as a petty theft misdemeanor that is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. On the other hand, if the value of the property embezzled exceeded $950 then the crime will likely be charged as a grand theft felony punishable by up to three years in prison. However, additional years can be added onto an offender’s sentence if the amount of money that he/she embezzled reached into the tens of thousands or millions.

Call a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney If You Have Been Charged

If you have been charged with embezzling property, you should contact an experienced lawyer, for help in defending against these charges.