An embezzlement charge is a serious accusation, but many employers that take up such allegations against an employee fail to recognize the fine line between approved use of company resources and a crime. For business managers, accountants, trustees, and executives dealing with large sums of money and liberal expense accounts, it may be easier than you think to embezzle company funds unintentionally.

The difference between company culture and wrongdoing

The difference between a charge of embezzlement and larceny is that a person charged with embezzlement was entrusted with a particular property and had legal permission to handle a client or an employer’s assets, money or expense accounts when the alleged theft or fraud occurred. For many companies, there is are cultural practices surrounding how the expense accounts and company credit cards are used for work. Many times the expectations of an employer regarding expenses are unclear during such activities as business trips or when facilitating client meetings. Here’s what you need to understand regarding the penalties and legal consequences of an embezzlement charge:

  • In California, embezzlement is considered a similar crime to theft. The difference between embezzlement as a felony or as a misdemeanor lies primarily in the amount of money involved. For values less than $950 the charge is more likely to be a misdemeanor.
  • Felony embezzlement could result in up to 16 months of prison time (2-3 years county jail) and fines reaching $10,000.
  • Misdemeanor convictions could result in just less than a year in county jail and fines reaching $1000.
  • The damage to a person’s reputation can make future employment challenging to acquire.

Fighting for your future

An employer who is looking to make an example of their employee who may have taken liberties with an account could present severe damage to that person’s reputation and career. If you’ve been charged with embezzlement by an employer, client, estate, or other entity, you need a lawyer with deep experience in criminal defense of embezzlement charges.