If you are like most people, when you hear the word "embezzlement," you picture someone in the corporate world who steals hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars from an employer or clients. While this is one example of this particular crime, it is not the only one.
Anyone entrusted with the care of money or property who others accuse of secretly taking it for personal gain could face a charge of embezzlement. This white-collar crime most often occurs in employment settings in addition to the corporate world. A range of activities encompass this crime such as falsifying records to cover theft or changing accounting records to hide the theft.
The legal elements of embezzlement
In order to secure a conviction for this charge, Ohio prosecutors need to prove the following elements of the crime:
- You must owe a fiduciary duty to the other party. In other words, someone entrusted you with responsibility for the money or property in question. For example, if you work as a cashier, your employer trusts you with the money in the register.
- You must obtain the property or money in question due to your fiduciary relationship with the other party. Using the same example of a cashier, you must have acquired the money through your position as a cashier (i.e. from the cash register).
- You unlawfully transferred the money or property to someone else or took it yourself. For example, you pocketed the cash or gave it to someone else.
- You misappropriated the property or money on purpose. You knew what you were doing at the time. For example, if you accidentally gave a customer too much change, you did not intentionally give away the money.
If any of these elements goes unproved, the charges may not stand. Even though prosecutors must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, you retain the right to mount a defense to the charges.
The criminal penalties for embezzlement can be severe, but those are not the only effects a conviction could have on your life. Having a conviction for such a crime on your record, or even an arrest, could keep you from obtaining another job that puts you in a similar position. In addition, the damage to your reputation could follow you. For these reasons, it would be a good idea to gain an understanding of your rights and defense options as soon as possible.