Embezzlement is a form of white-collar crime. It is committed when a person misappropriates the assets entrusted to him/her. Despite the amounts of money that have been or continue to be embezzled, which often reach millions or billions of dollars, it is shocking to know that this crime often gets discovered only when a relatively large portion of the funds is needed at one time or if a complete and independent accounting of all real and liquid assets is suddenly required.
Some of the biggest embezzlement cases in the U.S. include:
- The embezzlement of billions of dollars of investor money;
- Embezzlement of employee retirement funds and billions of dollars in accounting fraud;
- Fraud, embezzlement and ponzi scheme totaling to $8 billion; and,
- Embezzlement of $20 million of investor dollars.
Embezzlement is usually a deliberate crime that is methodically performed. By repeatedly embezzling only a small fraction or proportion of the total resources or funds and falsifying records in order to minimize risk of the detection, an embezzler can continue committing this crime for years or even decades without being detected. Some past embezzlement schemes are deemed very successful as these went on for many years before detection. This is due to the embezzler’s skill in concealing the nature of the transactions or in gaining the trust and confidence of investors or clients.
Laws on embezzlement may be federal or state-based. On the federal level, embezzlement laws target those who steal from the government. On the state level, laws go after public officials working for state and local governments, as well as people who do not work for the government.
Under federal statute 18 USC 3282, an embezzlement case may only be pursued within five years of the commission of the offense. Those convicted will be punished based on a point system. Base Offense Level, which is six, is the point assigned to those who have embezzled $5000 or less; the highest offense level is 36, which can be assigned to those who cause losses above $400 million.
According to the law firm Truslow & Truslow, no matter the offense, criminal charges at any level should be taken seriously. If charged with a crime or if you are under investigation for a crime, then contacting a criminal defense attorneys immediately may help safeguard your livelihood, property, and freedom, as well as save you from jail.