Was it an accounting error or embezzlement?

From a misunderstanding to a falling out between an employee and employer, charges of embezzlement often shock and confuse the individual charged. If your employer filed charges against you and the prosecutor gets a conviction, it could result in life-altering consequences.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, embezzlement occurs when a person fraudulently takes property entrusted to them.

Proving embezzlement

The relationship between employer and employee is often complicated. This is particularly true when the organization is a small business and employees are like family. Issues can also occur when company policies allow significant latitude regarding employees’ activities and security is light.

Prosecutors must prove several points for a conviction, including the following:

  • You took goods or money
  • You took the items or funds without the employer’s consent
  • You took the property with the intent to deprive the employer of it

If your job includes control over particular property, cash or accounts, the prosecutor must prove intent for the theft.

Consequences of embezzlement

Everyone makes mistakes on occasion. Disorganized bookkeeping, clerical errors, poorly defined job responsibilities, lack of expertise and poor accounting policies can make a mistake seem like embezzlement. The dollar value associated with the stolen or missing property can determine whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony.

A misdemeanor could result in up to $1,500 in fines and one year in jail. A felony conviction is much more serious and could include up to 99 years in state prison, depending on the details of the case. Consequences of a felony conviction typically include the loss of civil liberties. It can also affect your ability to find a new job, a place to live and secure a loan.

Situations regarding embezzlement charges can become complicated. The relationship you have with your employer or manager could affect how the prosecution approaches your case. Understanding your options can help you mount an effective defense and enable you to get the charges reduced or dismissed.