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Understanding the big picture about embezzlement charges

For most people, the term embezzlement brings certain images to mind from federal agents loading boxes of incriminating evidence into nondescript SUVs to defendants in distinctly corporate attire walking into a federal courthouse.

While these sorts of images are by no means inaccurate, they are nevertheless limited. Indeed, the reality is that it's not just political figures or financial professionals who are charged with embezzlement, and that these types of charges can be brought at both the federal and state level.

Any discussion of how the law in Massachusetts punishes embezzlement must be prefaced by an examination of the crime itself, as it might not be obvious to the average person how exactly embezzlement differs from larceny (i.e., theft).

In general, embezzlement can be classified a form of larceny given that it involves someone taking or carrying away the money/property of another with the intent to deprive them of it permanently.

Where it differs, however, is that there is an underlying position of trust, such that the defendant was granted some manner of special access to the funds/property in question and they used this special access to perpetrate the theft.

By way of illustration, it can be helpful to envision any one of the following scenarios:

  • Board members, corporate officers or employees taking funds from investors or other money that belongs to the business
  • Accountants or attorneys taking funds that belong to their clients
  • Bank tellers taking funds from accounts that belong to customers
  • Adult children taking money from an elderly loved one they look after

Having established what the crime of embezzlement actually is, a future post will explore how it's punished under state law and how the existence of certain aggravating conditions can serve to increase this punishment.

In the meantime, if you are under investigation for embezzlement or have been charged with any manner of white collar crime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options for protecting your rights, your reputation and your future.

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