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Although many have heard of the crime of embezzlement, few people truly understand what it is. Embezzlement is a unique type of property theft that results when people allegedly steal money or property with which they were entrusted. This is different than ordinary common law theft that involves stealing property for which one had no right of access.
To understand who might be convicted of embezzlement, it is important to know what it means to be entrusted with money or property, but to maintain no right of ownership to that property. A good example is a bank teller, who is in constant contact with others’ cash and check deposits, but who is entrusted not to take this property for personal use. Others who are entrusted with money or property include professionals like investors or attorneys, and may even include family members who are responsible for the care and management of another person’s finances.
To convict someone of embezzlement, there must be certain elements present. First, intent plays a key role in embezzlement, meaning a person must understand the nature of the offense. This means that the accused must intend to take the property and must understand that he or she is entrusted with it. Alleged embezzlers who do not recognize their position as guardian of the money or property might instead face larceny charges.
When people are convicted of embezzlement, they may be fined, sentenced to prison time or both. The punishment depends largely on the type of crime, how much was stolen and whether there were aggravating or mitigating factors accompanying the crime.
In Ohio, if individuals embezzle less than $1,000 in cash or property value, they face up to 180 days in jail, $1,000 in fines or both. If the property value or cash is more than $1,000, but less than $7,500, the fines increase up to $2,000 and/or at least six months incarceration, but no more than a year. These penalties continue to increase based on the value of the property or amount of money embezzled, with the most serious offenders (those who embezzle more than $150,000) serving at least nine and up to 36 months in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.
Embezzlement is a serious but complicated crime, and a person charged with it should contact a Cleveland white collar defense attorney to learn more about the different options available.