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Elements of Embezzlement in California Explained
Embezzlement is a burning issue in all of the US and not just in California. In fact, this type of crime is so common that it costs US businesses approximately $400 billion a year, according to the National White Collar Crime Center’s estimate.
However, while common, this offense is also commonly misunderstood and/or misinterpreted, which can lead to lengthy, tiresome, and often unnecessary trials, even if the defendant has the finest defense attorney San Diego can offer.
Therefore, it is imperative that both employers and employees understand what embezzlement entails, and this guide aims to help with that.
What is the definition of embezzlement in California?
Embezzlement is considered a white-collar crime and is defined under California Penal Code (CPC) §503 as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”
Potential punishments for the crime of embezzlement depend on the amount in question and are as follows:
- For the value of the embezzled property of $950 and above, the offense is considered a felony and charged as such;
- If the embezzled property value is lower than $950 the offense will be considered a misdemeanor.
Felony embezzlement is chargeable with jail time and/or a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the facts of the case and the existence of offenses tied to embezzlement.
What are some common forms of embezzlement?
Embezzlement can take many forms. However, the most common are:
- The diversion/siphoning of funds (e.g. A cashier takes the money from the cash register and spends it on a night out);
- The misappropriation of goods (e.g. A person you hired to wash your car takes it for a joyride without returning it);
- The misuse of credit cards and other forms of access to funds (e.g. An elderly gives their credit card to a hired caretaker to buy groceries, and they use it to pay their bills).
Of course, there are other forms of embezzlement. Such is the case with the notorious Ponzi Scheme. Here, a person is (or, more often, poses as) a financial advisor, promising astronomical gains in order to get the victim to entrust their finances in their care, only to later disappear with their hard-earned money. While certainly “famous”, this type of embezzlement is less common.
What’s The Difference Between Theft and Embezzlement?
As it stands, embezzlement has some similarities to theft. However, they are two different crimes that carry different penalties for the offender.
- Theft is the act of taking something from someone without their permission. It is usually done by stealth, or by means of force or trickery.
- Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating property entrusted to one’s care, such as money or goods.
What are the elements of embezzlement in CA?
For the offense to qualify as embezzlement under California law, it must fulfill all of the following criteria:
- A property owner entrusted their property to the defendant;
- The owner entrusted their property to the defendant because they trusted them;
- The defendant fraudulently converted or used the property in question for their own gain;
- The defendant had the intention to deprive the owner of said property.
This makes proving one of the above facts untrue the most common embezzlement defense strategy.
Who is the leading embezzlement defense attorney in San Diego, CA?
When facing embezzlement charges, it is of critical importance to understand what the process entails, how it works, and what the options are. Monder Criminal Lawyer Group is an award-winning team of well-established attorneys, ready to put our collective knowledge and experience to good use for your benefit.
Come to our office at the heart of San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and ensure you have the dedicated defense team that you deserve.