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What constitutes the crime of embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a white collar crime that often takes place in the employment setting. Essentially, embezzlement occurs when assets are stolen by one who is responsible for them or is otherwise in a position of trust with regards to the assets. For example, accounting embezzlement takes place when a person purposely changes a business's financial information in order to conceal the fact that they are stealing company funds. While a person in this position is granted lawful possession of the assets at issue, they are to use them for business purposes, such as managing or monitoring the assets, rather than misappropriating them for their own personal use.

Take, for instance, bank tellers. They lawfully handle money, which in actuality is owned by the bank and its customers, during the course of their job duties. However, if they take that money and use it for their own personal gain, that is embezzlement. Sometimes embezzlement involves stealing a significant amount of assets in one go. Other times embezzlement takes place when a person steals small amounts of assets for a long time.

In general, there are four elements to the crime of embezzlement. First of all, a fiduciary relationship must exist. Second, the accused must have obtained the assets through their position as a fiduciary. The accused needs to have taken on ownership of the assets or given the assets to a third party. Finally, the accused must have intentionally done all these things.

As you can see, the crime of embezzlement, like other white collar crimes, can be quite complex. In fact, there may be instances in which the line between legal actions and illegal embezzlement is hazy. Therefore, Maryland residends who have been accused of felonies such as embezzlement would be well-served to have an attorney assess their case and represent them throughout the criminal law process if necessary.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement," Accessed June 12, 2017

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