Embezzlement is categorized as a white collar crime, which means it is a non-violent offense that is motivated by monetary gain. Instead of physically or forcibly taking money or property from someone, such as in a robbery, an embezzler uses fraudulent tactics or schemes to take the money or property. Many people believe that, because no one gets physically hurt, embezzlement is not treated as seriously as robbery or other violent crimes. However, many embezzlement schemes result in substantial financial losses that can ruin a victim’s life. Therefore, authorities and courts take such white collar offenses very seriously and the law provides for potentially harsh consequences for offenders.
To put it simply, embezzlement is a form of theft. The marked difference is that while a thief just takes something without consent, an embezzler had permission to temporarily possess or handle the property and then decides to keep it permanently without consent. For example:
- Theft occurs when a store customer steals from the cash register.
- Embezzlement occurs when an employee of the store, who handles money in the register, takes some of the money for himself.
In the second scenario, the person had permission to handle the money, but did not have permission to keep it. For this reason, an embezzler also breaches the trust of the property owner in the process of the theft.
Common Embezzlement Schemes
Embezzlement schemes can be on a small or grand scale and can involve one instance of theft or years of complex conspiring. Some common scenarios include the following:
- An investment broker depositing a client’s money in his own account or investing it for himself.
- Bank tellers secretly pocketing deposit money.
- Payroll employees failing to deposit sufficient employment tax and instead keeping the difference.
- A conservator or caretaker who has access to the money of a family member to pay bills deciding to take some of their money.
- An accountant or bookkeeper making false entries into the books and taking company assets for their personal gain.
- Ponzi schemes, in which a broker uses money from one investor to pay returns to another and then keeps the profits for himself.
Under Illinois law, the penalties for embezzlement depend on how much money or property was taken. For example, taking less than $500 is a misdemeanor, which means possibly one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. On the other hand, if you are charged with embezzling more than $1,000,000, you may face Class X felony charges, 6-30 years in prison, and up to a $25,000 fine.
White collar crimes can have serious consequences just like violent offenses. You should never take any investigation, arrest, or charge for embezzlement lightly. Instead, as soon as you believe you are under investigation for embezzlement, your first step should be to contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Lawyer Steven Goldman can help you communicate with law enforcement officers and can assist you with every step of your case if you are formally charged. Contact Goldman & Associates for help today.