Embezzlement charges are among the most serious job-related accusations a worker can face. In fiscal year 2018, there were 513 cases of bank fraud and embezzlement that went through U.S. District Court.
For those found guilty, a conviction can represent a significant life setback – not just due to criminal penalties, but because of the serious hit to career opportunities, even if unjustified. However, for prosecutors, proving embezzlement is not always easy.
4 factors must be proven
The FBI defines embezzlement as a “fraudulent appropriation of property” by someone that has been entrusted to be responsible for that property. In order to prove a charge of embezzlement in a criminal case, prosecutors have to prove four specific elements. These elements are:
- There was a trust or fiduciary relationship – meaning the defendant had a responsibility to take care of the asset in question
- The defendant took possession of the property through their employment, not by other means
- The defendant fraudulently took ownership of the property or transferred it to another party
- The defendant’s actions were done intentionally
Some of these elements can be more difficult to prove than others. Intent, for example, can be murky. Or, in cases involving cash embezzlement, it may be hard for a prosecutor to clearly show a defendant took the money through their work and not via another means.
Even in circumstances where prosecutors must clear a high hurdle, allegations of white-collar crime should not be taken lightly. A strong defense – backed by experienced, knowledgeable attorneys – can potentially be the difference between a positive or negative outcome.