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When people consider embezzlement, they usually think of schemes involving millions of dollars, but in reality, you can be charged with this crime for much less than that. Embezzlement is taken very seriously, so if you’re facing this charge, contact an experienced criminal lawyer, like a criminal lawyer from Richard J. Banta, P.C., as soon as you can.

What is embezzlement?

In most states, embezzlement crimes involved the theft of money or property by someone who was entrusted to take care of it. It can mean misappropriating a large or small amount of money or property at once or over a period of time. A person embezzling usually makes an effort to cover it up, such as creating fake invoices or bank accounts or moving money between banks.

How is embezzlement different from theft?

Embezzlement may sound like theft, but these are two different crimes under state law. This act is different from theft in a few key ways, including the ones listed below.

  • Intent: The taking of property or money was intentional.
  • Relationship: Many times, the person embezzling is in the position to do so because they are being trusted. This type of relationship is known as a fiduciary one.
  • Ownership: The person embezzling took ownership of the property or money involved or they transferred it to another person.

Penalties for embezzlement

The potential punishment for embezzlement in this state depends on how much money or property was taken, the nature of the trust relationship, how long the embezzlement went on, the defendant’s criminal history — if any — and why the property or money was taken. The nature of the property — whether it was private or public — also impacts the charge and penalties involved.

For private property, embezzling less than $50 is a Class 1 petty offense, carrying up to six months in jail. However, that jumps to a Class 6 felony with a possible 18-month jail sentence if between $2,000 to $5,000 was taken. Embezzling public property is a Class 5 felony, with a sentence of up to three years in prison. On top of that, a person convicted of embezzling public property is forever banned from holding any state office involving profit or trust.

Types of embezzlement

Embezzlement can take more than one form. In payroll embezzlement, for example, a person might use the company payroll at their place of work to take money for themselves. In siphoning, a person may take items here and there–such as goods out of a retail store or food out of a restaurant–over time, without creating a cash discrepancy. Kickbacks are another example, when someone takes additional money from a vendor of a good or service in exchange for using that vendor at their place of business.

It’s important to note that more than high-dollar crimes are prosecuted as embezzlement. If you’re facing a charge for this type of crime, you could be looking at jail time, fines and more, so speak to a criminal lawyer for help today.