Were you aware that employee theft costs companies approximately $50 billion annually? When companies hire and pay workers, it’s sad to think they encounter dishonesty of epic proportions.
Unfortunately, plenty of statistics suggest that sometimes an employer’s most formidable threats are internal rather than external. About one in five small business owners say workers have stolen from them. And the average embezzlement situation results in $357,650 in losses. These losses can add up and make it difficult for some businesses to stay afloat and remain in business.
Embezzlement refers to the misappropriation of funds belonging to someone else. It happens when employees wrongfully defraud their employers by stealing money or other things.
A white-collar crime, embezzlement is non-violent and typically involves concealment or deceit. Keep reading to see four things about embezzlement that you ought to know about.
1. Embezzlement Charges Demand a Fiduciary Responsibility
There has to be a fiduciary relationship for someone to face embezzlement charges. A fiduciary responsibility is present between employers and staff members since the employer-employee relationship requires a certain level of conduct. When employers hire workers, there’s an expectation that workers won’t steal and work against the employers’ interests. And while most workers have a moral compass that guards against intentional theft, others don’t.
But it’s vital to understand that some people face false embezzlement charges. Whether guilty or not guilty, you must hire a criminal defense lawyer specializing in representing people facing embezzlement crimes. Hiring the right lawyer can make a big difference in your favor.
“Fiduciaries are supposed to act in a way that aligns with the best interests of their employers,’ says Brian Walker, a lawyer at Brian Walker Law Firm. “Anyone accused of embezzlement by their employers should hire a criminal defense attorney specializing in embezzlement cases. Remember that facing charges isn’t the same thing as being guilty. Get help to clear your name.”
2. It’s Not Necessarily About the Amount Misappropriated
One of the most well-known embezzlement cases is Enron. Shareholders lost a whopping $74 billion when Enron went bankrupt. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately.
While some embezzlement cases have made the news headlines, not all cases involve billions or millions of dollars. Someone can face embezzlement charges even if the value of the amount stolen is relatively little. It’s about holding people accountable if they violate a fiduciary responsibility. But the penalties or sentences are likely to be worse for more severe offenses.
3. Charges Must Be Based on Purposeful Actions
Embezzlement charges can only be filed against people who intentionally violate their fiduciary duty to their employers. So, for instance, if a worker accidentally takes something belonging to their employer, embezzlement doesn’t apply in such a case.
What happens if you face an embezzlement charge that you know isn’t true? The first thing you need to do is hire a criminal defense lawyer to get the facts, build a strong case, and represent you should a court case be necessary.
4. Various Punishments Possible
If convicted of embezzlement, various punishments are possible. For instance, a jail sentence is possible if found guilty of embezzlement in a court of law.
According to one source, the average incarceration sentence for fraud, theft, and property destruction offenders is two years. Meanwhile, almost three in four property destruction and theft offenders are sentenced to prison. And 12.8% are convicted of a crime carrying a mandatory minimum penalty. Of those people, 14.8% are relieved of that penalty.
While fines or incarceration is possible, anyone facing such charges should hire a lawyer. A lot is at stake. If accused of embezzlement, a criminal defense lawyer will help you achieve a better outcome than you could ever achieve on your own. It can be the difference between being exonerated or facing a prison sentence.