Imagine you’ve been working for an accounting firm for many years. You and your coworker manage several large accounts for multi-million dollar business clients. Suddenly, your boss calls you to his or her office and asks you to account for $50,000, which he says is missing from one of the accounts you manage.

The next thing you know, you’re being interviewed by law enforcement officials about the matter and being accused of embezzlement. It’s time to start organizing your defense.

What are the elements of embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a type of larceny or theft that usually involves the stealing of money by someone working in a position of trust who is responsible for managing the assets that were stolen. People accused of embezzlement usually work in a corporate setting. They are commonly accountants or managers who have been entrusted with the management of large amounts of financial assets.

Accounting embezzlement involves a person placed in a position of trust who manipulates financial records to hide one’s theft of assets. These individuals will utilize their access to property that doesn’t belong to them and move the stolen assets to be used for themselves, personally.

All of the following elements are required to convict someone of an embezzlement offense:

  1. The defendant owed the victim who was allegedly embezzled a fiduciary obligation of trust. This means that the defendant held a legal obligation to act in accordance with the injured party’s best interests because the victim was relying on the defendant.
  2. The defendant unlawfully obtained the allegedly stolen property through his or her fiduciary relationship.
  3. The defendant took personal ownership of the allegedly stolen property or transferred ownership of the allegedly stolen property to another party.
  4. The defendant acted intentionally.

Do you need to defend against an embezzlement charge?

During an embezzlement trial, prosecutors will seek to prove—through the presentation of evidence and witness accounts—that the above four points are true beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, in defending against an embezzlement charge, defendants may try to cast doubt on the prosecution’s version of the facts to prevent a conviction. A wide variety of white collar crimes defense strategies may also be appropriate depending on the unique facts and circumstances of a particular case.