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Pennsylvania white collar crimes: What is embezzlement?

Sometimes, people in Pennsylvania are charged with monitoring or managing the assets of other people or groups as a part of their job responsibilities. If they improperly use those funds or property for their own personal gain, it may qualify as embezzlement. In order to protect themselves from this type of charge, it behooves people to understand what constitutes embezzlement.

In general, embezzlement occurs when someone who is entrusted with another’s property fraudulently steals all, or a portion, of those assets. According to the Legal Information Institute, the misappropriation of funds is the most common form of this white collar crime. For example, a person’s finance manager is supposed to take assets out of a client’s account and invest them. Instead of investing the exact amount specified, the finance manager keeps a portion of the funds for his or herself. This would constitute embezzlement, and not larceny, because the finance manager was given access to the funds he or she misused.

The simple claim of theft by a person who had the right to possess the assets he or she allegedly stole is not enough to establish a charge of embezzlement. It must also be shown that certain other elements occurred. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the other elements of embezzlement charges include the following:

  •        The accused came to possess or care for the alleged stolen property in the course of his or her employment
  •        The property owner had a fiduciary or trust relationship with the alleged embezzler
  •        The accused’s actions were intended to deny the property’s owner the use of the property
  •        The alleged embezzler’s fraudulently converted or appropriated the property for his or her own personal use

The misuse or theft of assets does not have to be permanent in order to qualify as embezzlement. As such, a person may be charged with this criminal offense even if he or she repays, or intends to repay, the funds taken.

Being convicted of embezzlement can carry severe consequences, and may impact people’s future employment options and opportunities. As such, those facing such charges may benefit from obtaining legal representation. Working with an attorney may help them to understand their options, as well as establish a thorough criminal defense.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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