Embezzlement is a crime committed by a person who steals or misuses funds or property entrusted to them by their employer or organization. Embezzlement can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the punishments for this crime can range from fines, restitution, or jail time to a lengthy prison sentence.
Embezzlement is referred to as a white-collar crime. This means that an individual or individuals non-violently used coercive methods to deceive and defraud another individual or institution for financial gain. For people who may have committed a white-collar crime, an embezzlement lawyer is an absolute necessity. Embezzlement crimes and investigations can be complicated and drawn out, often lasting years, and it will be to your advantage to have experienced representation on your side throughout the entire process.
The Ins and Outs of Embezzlement
The crime of embezzlement is often the result of someone abusing the trust, power, or position they hold or were given. Criminals who are guilty of embezzlement are often charged with illegally using money for personal reasons when the money was actually meant for company, government, or political uses. Embezzlement is often used informally to mean that there has been a theft of money.
Embezzlement can look like many things, but one simple way to understand it would be to think of it as submitting falsely forged expense receipts to a company for things that never happened. The company would then reimburse or pay you for these expenses, but you never paid or made good on them in the first place, meaning you pocketed the money. Embezzlement could also happen on a small scale, like a store clerk swiping a few dollars from a cash register. On a larger scale, embezzlement could look like a financial advisor misusing funds from investors.
There are many ways that embezzlement can take shape, both large and small. For this reason, a good embezzlement lawyer is necessary because individuals facing embezzlement charges can be punished by large fines and lengthy jail time.
How Does Embezzlement Happen?
At its core, embezzlement is a crime of breached trust. When someone is in charge, in one way or another, of managing or protecting funds, but instead steals or misappropriates the funds, embezzlement occurs. More often than not, embezzlement is a premeditated crime, and an individual or group’s actions to steal money are concealed throughout the process. Successful embezzlements can continue for years without detection. Victims of embezzlement often notice that funds are missing, but don’t suspect the embezzler because they trust that individual and have been purposely deceived by them.
This type of deception occurs most often through the falsification of records or paper trails. This is done in order to hide the illegal activity being perpetrated by the embezzler. Most often, embezzlement involves a large number of very small transactions being funneled out of an account, or to a separate account, over a long period of time. Most methods of embezzlement will be caught with routine audits.
A more complex and difficult-to-catch form of embezzlement is the famous Ponzi scheme. This is when an individual or individuals bring on investors for an idea, and high returns are paid out to early investors. The returns paid to early investors are actually from new investors, not from any money made off of the investment. This continues for many rounds of investors and can go on for many years.
Embezzlement is a statutory offense. A crime may fall under state law, federal law, or both, depending on the circumstances. For this reason, an embezzlement lawyer familiar with both state and federal white-collar crime is essential when facing embezzlement charges.
How to Prevent Embezzlement
Embezzlement can be a huge problem and can cost companies millions of dollars of business every year, not to mention the loss of reputation or business due to a scandal.
Because embezzlement must come from a place of breached trust, one of the best defenses is to have a thorough hiring and onboarding process to vet potential employees. Additionally, companies can employ security and monitoring programs as a means of risk management.
Additionally, routine audits should reveal any type of suspicious transactions, so they are encouraged to take place regularly. However, because part of the embezzlement process is to make false transactions appear legitimate, the audit must be in-depth and multi-faceted in order to reveal that the “proper” paperwork is actually fake.
Embezzlement Lawyers at Lowther Walker, LLC
If you’re facing charges of embezzlement, it’s important to move quickly to secure representation and fight the charges from the start. The experienced embezzlement lawyers at Lowther Walker, LLC are here to stand by your side and help you through this challenging time, so contact us today.