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embezzlementEmbezzlement is a white collar crime. It most commonly occurs as employee theft or fraud. This crime is a type of property theft that occurs when someone violates a trusted money-keeping relationship. This person, who monitors someone else’s money or property, then steals all or part of the property for personal gain.

California state law distinguishes embezzlement from larceny or theft by requiring there be an element of trust. In order for an this conviction to stick, it must be property that the defendant legally possesses or has authority to access.


Embezzlement & Employment

Most embezzlement occurs in an employment situation, and can occur in the form of stealing money, credit card numbers, unlawfully accessing bank accounts, or taking product without permission. This type of crime comes in different forms. Examples include, a bank teller taking money from clients, or a family member taking money from a relative for whom they’re caring.  Additionally, even managers of retail stores taking product home without permission are subject to criminal conviction.

In the state of California, embezzlement is punished according to the value of the property stolen. Property worth less than $950 (petty theft), and embezzlement of property worth more than $950 (grand theft) are two categories of embezzlement that carry different levels of punishment.

Petty Theft

Petty theft or embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant faces the possibility of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the property is worth less than $50, the prosecutor may choose to charge the offense as an infraction. Infractions carry a penalty of a fine up to $250, and are not available to defendants with any prior theft-related convictions.

Grand Theft

Those charged with embezzlement of more than $950 can see charges of grand theft. A conviction carries a jail sentence of up to one year, if charged with a misdemeanor. If found guilty of felony grand theft, state prison time of 1 months, two years or three years is possible. The embezzlement of firearms and autos always fall under the umbrella of grand theft, no matter their value.

Embezzlement of public money is a felony in California. Those convicted of embezzling public money are subject to increased fines and penalties, and usually must repay the stolen property or funds in addition to spending two to four years in prison. Additionally, those convicted of embezzling public funds will be permanently ineligible for any position in state or local government.

Embezzlement Prosecution Must Include These 3 Elements:

1. You have/had a relationship of trust with the victim,

2. Certain property care results from the relationship, and

3. You specifically intended to deprive the victim of that property by committing fraud and taking it as your own.

As with other types of crimes, white collar crimes are subject to additional enhancements. In the case of embezzlement, if the property is worth more than $65,000 you face an additional AND consecutive one-year prison sentence. This additional sentence can be as high as four years if the property is worth more than $3.2 million. Additionally, embezzlement from an elder or dependent person is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

The defenses to embezzlement charges include claim of good faith, lack of criminal intent and false accusations/innocence. If you believe you were entitled to the property, didn’t specifically intend to deprive the owner of the property, or feel you have been falsely accused, an experienced criminal defense attorney in the state of California can help.

Kavinoky Law Firm

About Darren Kavinoky and The Kavinoky Law Firm.

Darren Kavinoky receives recognition over and over for his commitment to clients and for being a top California defense lawyer. The Los Angeles Magazine repeatedly regards him as a Super Lawyer , and the American Trial Lawyers Association highlighted him as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in California. Additionally, he is the legal analyst and special correspondent for the syndicated television program The Insider, and is a sought-after guest on shows that include Entertainment Tonight, Dr. Phil, NBC’s Today Show, and various programs on CNN and the Headline News Channel. Follow Darren on Twitter @DarrenKavinoky or www.DarrenKavinoky.com.

Brianna Wilkins
Brianna Wilkins