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Home 9 Embezzlement 9 The Definition of Embezzling & Other Frequently Asked Questions

The Definition of Embezzling & Other Frequently Asked Questions

portrait of a man in a suit putting money in his suit coat pocket, suspiciously

Embezzlement is often considered a lesser-known white-collar crime because it typically occurs quietly within the financial operations of an organization. Unlike other high-profile crimes, such as fraud or insider trading, embezzlement often goes unnoticed until an audit or investigation is conducted. Because this type of theft is an internal crime committed by someone trusted with the company’s money or assets, it’s often harder to detect until someone is checking the books.

Additionally, embezzlement is where you use subtle circumstances to conceal the theft, making the embezzlement even more difficult to detect. This fact, combined with a general lack of awareness around the term “embezzlement,” contributes to its status as one of the lesser-known white-collar crimes.

In this blog post, we will talk about the most frequently asked questions about embezzlement, the definition of embezzling, and what to look for when you are looking for an embezzlement attorney.

What Is the Definition of Embezzling?

The definition of embezzling under Pennsylvania law is the misappropriation of assets, money, or property entrusted to one’s care, usually occurring in a corporate or employment setting.

A person is considered to be committing this type of theft crime when they deliberately and permanently deprive, misuse, or misdirect the assets for personal financial gain, violating their responsibilities and the trust placed in them.

It’s important to note that embezzlement is considered one of the more serious theft crimes in Pennsylvania and has harsh penalties in both civil and criminal court, potentially including fines, restitution, and jail.

What Is an Example of Embezzlement?

A classic example of this type of theft is if you, an employee at a large corporation, have been entrusted with handling the company’s finances. You notice that the company has several small, seemingly insignificant accounts. Over time, you start diverting small amounts of money from these accounts into your personal accounts.

Given the scale of the corporation’s finances, these transactions are overlooked. Unnoticed, these small amounts start to accumulate in your account, turning into a significant sum over time. This typical embezzlement scenario involves a misuse of funds by an individual for their own financial gain who was trusted to manage them.

What Is the Most Common Form of Embezzlement?

The most common embezzlement charges involve petty cash theft, typically carried out by employees with direct access to a company’s financial resources they are supposed to protect. Embezzlement usually involves the example provided above, which involves taking small amounts over a long period, making it less noticeable. Misappropriated property or assets, such as equipment or supplies, is another prevalent form of embezzlement.

However, more sophisticated forms of embezzlement may involve financial record fraud, phantom vendors, or payroll fraud, where an employee manipulates the payroll system to overpay themselves or creates “ghost” employees. These kinds of theft can be more difficult to detect and can lead to significant financial losses for a company.

What Are the Four Elements of Embezzlement?

While various circumstances surround an embezzlement conviction, there are four essential elements you need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in all embezzlement cases.

  1. The Existence of a Fiduciary Duty: This part of the definition of embezzling refers to a relationship where one party places trust in another to manage and protect money or someone else’s property. You also need to prove that the person who misappropriates the funds has a fiduciary duty or relationship with the party who owns them to be charged with embezzlement.
  2. The Property was Acquired through the Relationship: The defendant must have obtained the property or funds as a direct consequence of this fiduciary duty to commit embezzlement.
  3. The Defendant Took Ownership of the Property or Transferred it to Someone Else: The individual commits embezzlement when they take ownership of the money or property or when they transfer them to a third party that is not the rightful owner.
  4. The Defendant’s Actions Were Intentional: The act of embezzling money or assets isn’t accidental. The defendant must have deliberately engaged or had a breach in the fiduciary relationship with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property for their own personal gain.
Handcuffs, gavel, and three 100 dollar bills on the background of a wooden table

Is Embezzlement a Felony or Misdemeanor in Pennsylvania?

Embezzlement is typically classified as a theft conviction in Pennsylvania. The severity of the embezzlement crime and associated penalties depend on the value of the property stolen.

Use this table below to understand the sentencing guidelines and penalties for embezzlement charges in Pennsylvania.

Value of Money or Property EmbezzledType of ChargeJail TimeFine Amount
Less Than $50Third-Degree MisdemeanorUp To One Year$250 To $5,000
Between $50 And $200Second-Degree MisdemeanorUp To Two Years$500 To $5,000
Between $200 And $2,000First-Degree MisdemeanorUp To Five Years$1,500 To $10,000
Between $2,000 And $100,000Third-Degree FelonyUp To Seven Years$2,500 To $15,000
Between $100,000 And $500,000Second-Degree FelonyUp To 10 Years$5,000 To $25,000
Over $500,000First-Degree FelonyUp To 20 YearsUp To $25,000

These penalties can increase if the embezzlement charges involve a severe breach of fiduciary duty or if the theft is related to certain protected classes, such as the elderly.

How to Find the Right Pennsylvania Embezzlement Lawyer

When seeking the right Pennsylvania embezzlement lawyer, you first need to prioritize experience. Look for a lawyer who has considerable experience in dealing with those convicted of white-collar crimes, especially theft or embezzlement charges. Check their track record in handling similar criminal procedure cases and their success rate.

Additionally, the embezzlement attorney should have a good reputation in the legal community. Excellent lawyers often have glowing reviews and testimonials from previous clients and respect from peers.

Availability is another critical factor when looking for an embezzlement lawyer. You want an embezzlement lawyer who can dedicate sufficient time and resources to your embezzlement charges and provide a strong legal defense. The lawyer should be approachable and available for consultations whenever needed throughout the legal process.

Finally, you need to consider the charge of embezzlement and the amount of time you will be spending in court. If you’ve been charged with embezzlement, it is essential to have a good attorney and a strong defense on your side. It is vital to have the right legal representation that is dedicated to fighting for your rights, regardless of the time spent in court.

For a Dedicated Pennsylvania Embezzlement Lawyer, Call Marinaro Law Firm

Now that you know the definition of embezzling, you can take action to protect your rights. When you need the right Pennsylvania embezzlement lawyer for your case, turn to the experts at Marinaro Law Firm for help. Our legal team is skilled, compassionate, and committed to getting the job done and helping to make sure that you receive a fair embezzlement trial. When you’re ready to schedule a legal consultation, contact us today and learn how we can fight for you.


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