In the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District


In the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District

What is the difference between larceny and embezzlement?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2016 | White Collar Crimes |

Both larceny and embezzlement have to do with theft. Someone who embezzles is usually in a position of trust and takes property belonging to another through deceptive means. Larceny involves unlawfully taking property and actually transporting it or carrying it away without the consent of the victim.

From a misdemeanor to a felony

Larceny and theft are words that are often used interchangeably. However, if the item that was stolen is valued at $250 or more, the crime graduates from a misdemeanor to a felony. It then becomes a charge of grand larceny, which involves taking the property of the victim and moving it to another location, or grand theft, which is a general term for the taking of anything worth $250 or more and can include burglaries or robberies.

Larceny has many faces

In most cases, to qualify as larceny, the stolen item must be personal property, but this does not have to be tangible in nature. It can also be real property, intellectual property, services or information. Stealing a car or a large amount of jewelry constitutes grand larceny. Grand larceny theft can include scams, fraudulent credit card products, con games and insider trading.

How embezzlement became a crime

Prosecutors became frustrated when thieves had a right to be in possession of funds that were stolen, for example, but the essential element of “trespassory taking” could not be proved. However, proving embezzlement only requires that the thief, often a company employee, has the authority to control the stolen funds or goods.

Different methods of embezzlement

An embezzler may “skim off the top,” or take small amounts of money over a period of time and in a pattern that makes it unlikely for the funds to be missed. A manager might under-report the income from receivables and quietly pocket the difference. A more daring embezzler may take a large amount of money or goods all at one time and disappear from the company, a scheme that usually takes considerable prior planning. Interestingly, a thief must report embezzled funds; that is, the Internal Revenue Service requires that embezzled funds be included in the individual’s tax return. Upon returning the funds or making restitution, the thief becomes eligible to receive a tax deduction.

Embezzlement Safeguards

Companies use different ways to protect against embezzlement. As a form of oversight, responsibilities may be divided among levels of employees. Embezzlement would then require collusion and the dividing up of funds, making the effort more difficult and less lucrative for everyone involved. Cash registers offer a good check on funds because gross sales must equal the deposit at the end of each day.

Managing white collar crimes

Attorneys understand that crimes such as embezzlement and larceny are often complex and that high-profile companies may be involved, requiring discretion and tact. White collar crimes like these are best managed by an experienced legal team.


FindLaw Network