The crime of embezzlement is defined by the United States Supreme Court as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come.” It is often compared to the crime of larceny.
Unlike the definition of larceny, however, the definition of embezzlement involves the consensual or lawful transfer of the property in question. More specifically, four elements of a situation must be present to establish embezzlement:
• The defendant had some kind of fiduciary or trust relationship with a local government agency, state government agency or private organization.
• The defendant obtained the property in question through employment.
• The way in which the defendant appropriated or converted the property for personal use qualifies as fraudulent.
• The defendant intentionally acted in this fraudulent manner for the purpose of depriving the property’s rightful owner of using the property.
Penalties for embezzlement under New York law
Despite the differences in the definitions of larceny and theft, New York State law classifies the embezzlement of more than $1,000 of property as grand larceny of the fourth degree. This degree of grand larceny is a Class E felony in New York, carrying with it a minimum prison sentence of at least three years. Embezzlement of property exceeding $1 million is classified in New York as a Class B felony with a sentence of up 25 years in prison.
Embezzlement cases can get complex
Similar to other white-collar crimes, embezzlement cases often rely on a large collection of accounting records and other financial statements for evidence. New York prosecutors take the crime of embezzlement very seriously. However, understanding the elements of a strong defense to these charges may help avoid a felony conviction.