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What is embezzlement?

"Embezzlement" is a term you may have read in Illinois newspapers or heard on TV. You may already know that it is a white-collar crime and involves stealing from your employer. However, according to FindLaw, what distinguishes embezzlement from simple theft is that you must be in a position of responsibility for the assets that you have allegedly taken. 

Employers often place assets in the care of an employee, who is then responsible for using, managing or monitoring the assets according to the best interests of the owner. For example, if you are a salesperson or a customer service representative, your employer might provide you a company laptop with which to do your job, or you may be a bank teller or cashier monitoring monetary transactions. In either case, you are in a position of trust with regard to the company's assets. If you misappropriate the property entrusted to your care and use it for your own benefit instead, you may face prosecution for embezzlement.

In order to prove a charge of embezzlement, the prosecution must prove that you acted with the intention of depriving your employer of property, purposely using it for your own personal gain. There are also three other factors that must be present to support an embezzlement charge: 

  • You must have received the property through your relationship with your employer
  • You must then have taken possession of the property and/or transferred it to someone else
  • Your employer must have a reliance on you; in other words, there must be a fiduciary relationship between you

Some embezzlers operate over a long period of time, misappropriating only small sums of money at a time. Others may take a large amount of money at once. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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