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Embezzlement: a key prosecutorial white collar crime focus

Any representative list of so-called “white collar” crimes will invariably be lengthy and marked by highly differentiated activity. A general online overview of the topic spotlights wrongdoing relevant to the following financially motivated behaviors:

  • Ponzi schemes (think Bernard “Bernie” Madoff)
  • Securities insider trading
  • Computer cybercrime
  • Identity theft
  • Money laundering
  • Fraud committed in wide-ranging scenarios
  • Bribery
  • Extortion and racketeering

That compendium is obviously broad and varied, and it can be added to by one more charge often filed by prosecutors that is often not well understood by the general public.

Namely, that is embezzlement.

What exactly is that?

Defining embezzlement: yes, it’s stealing, but …

An opportunistic employee sees a coworker’s wallet laying on a table and helps himself to some cash.

That is certainly a theft offense, but is it embezzlement?

It is not, and here is why: An embezzler takes for personal use (converts) an asset belonging to another – often cash, but other types of property as well – that he or she already has lawful possession over.

Think bank teller for a moment. That individual does not own the cash being taken in and/or being dispensed from a till, but does have the lawful right to handle it in specified ways.

Essentially, embezzlement is an act of unlawful property conversion committed by an individual in lawful possession of another’s property with the intent to permanently retain that property.

Why is embezzlement a top-tier prosecutorial focus?

An established Colorado white collar criminal defense law firm succinctly answers the above-posed header query. It notes that embezzlement often features in high-profile and big-money cases involving alleged wrongdoing in a corporate context. Given that, it is often the case that targeted defendants have positions such as company executives, accountants, financial officers, portfolio managers, bankers and so forth.

Many millions of dollars can be at issue in an embezzlement case. The magnitude of some cases ensures their close identification with deep-pocketed task forces (often federal and state investigators working together) and prosecutors bent on securing maximum criminal penalties.

Individuals accused of embezzlement or other white collar crimes might reasonably want to timely reach out for candid guidance and aggressive legal representation to a proven criminal defense legal team.