We’ve all heard the term embezzlement in the news and in crime movies, but most people don’t know what it actually means. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, you may be unsure of what your charges entail. Embezzlement is a form of theft, but it’s much more specific than shoplifting or taking a purse from the seat of a car. Embezzlement involves theft of assets by an individual who is responsible for managing those assets.
Embezzlement is most common within businesses and corporations, and when individuals are put in charge of managing loved one’s estates. This crime can be as simple as taking a few dollars here and there while working as a cashier or bank teller, or as complex as creating fake employee profiles and writing monthly checks to employees who don’t actually exist. In many cases, the individual keeps the money for himself or herself, but the transference of funds outside of the company to another individual can also constitute embezzlement. Consulting with a skilled Boston criminal defense lawyer is crucial to a positive outcome if you’re facing embezzlement charges.
Four Factors of Embezzlement
Defined as the theft or larceny of assets by a person with responsibility for those assets, embezzlement likely occurred if the following four factors were present:
- A fiduciary relationship between two parties; one party must rely on the other.
- The property in question must have been acquired through the relationship.
- The defendant must have transferred the property to another person or entity, or he or she must have taken ownership of the property.
- The action of taking the property was intentional.
Accounting embezzlement, which involves manipulating accounting records to conceal the stealing of funds, is one of the most common forms of the crime. When a person is given lawful possession of someone else’s property, for the purpose of managing it, but converts it to personal use, this is embezzlement. In some cases, people take large sums of money at once, while other people embezzle small amounts over an extended period of time. It is also possible to embezzle property, such as laptops or company vehicles. A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you are facing this type of charge.
Penalties for Embezzlement in Massachusetts
The penalty for embezzlement in MA is largely dependent on the value and type of property stolen, as well as on the defendant’s prior criminal history.
- Value of stolen property is worth $250 or less: If it’s a first offense, you could face fines of up to $600, and up to two-and-a-half years in prison.
- Value of stolen property is worth $250 or more (or if the stolen property included firearms): You may face a fine of up to $25,000, and up to five years in prison.
- Trade secrets: You could be looking at a fine of up to $25,000, and up to five years in prison.