Legal Dictionary

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Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the fraudulent taking of another's property by someone who has been entrusted with that property. The most common forms of embezzlement are employee theft or employee fraud. In California, embezzlement is prosecuted under either Penal Code Section 503 (embezzlement), Section 484 (petty theft) or Section 487 (grand theft).

Embezzlement includes the following elements:

  • An owner entrusted property to the defendant;
  • The owner did so because he or she trusted the defendant;
  • The defendant fraudulently converted or used that property for his or her own benefit; and
  • When the defendant converted or used the property, he or she intended to deprive the owner or its use.

Some of the most common embezzlement scenarios include:

  • Taking money from a store's cash register
  • Stealing merchandise from the company warehouse
  • Transferring money from a company account into an employee's personal account
  • Using the company credit card for personal employee purchases.

Embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the property taken and the defendant's criminal history. Punishment ranges from six months in county jail to three years in state prison. If you or someone you know is being investigated or charged with embezzlement, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before speaking to law enforcement or anyone associated with the true owner of the property.