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What to expect with an embezzlement charge

White collar crimes are recognized as crimes that are alleged that are financially motivated and are thought to occur mostly in the corporate or finance worlds. The term "white collar" is a somewhat satirical association with the type of shirt an individual charged with this type of crime would wear - a white dress shirt with a suit and tie - as opposed to what a "blue collar" worker would wear - a uniform in a factory. Nonetheless, these types of crimes can be just as serious as what may be perceived as other, "lower class" crimes, like burglary or robbery.

When it comes to white collar crimes, embezzlement stands out as a charge that can be particularly damaging. Embezzlement is a form of theft, but with an added layer: elements of trust and responsibility. A person will be charged with embezzlement, as opposed to theft, when an alleged theft of funds occurs and the individual who was in charge of those funds was in a position of trust, meaning that they were expected to handle the funds in a responsible manner. In essence, the individual was responsible for the funds, and, despite that trust, the individual stole from the funds for their own use.

A common defense to a charge of embezzlement is that the financial issue was simply an error as opposed to an intentional act of theft. Intent is key. The act of misappropriating the funds in question must be proven to have been an intentional act by the defendant. The inability of the prosecution to prove this intent is often a fatal flaw in an embezzlement case.

With the proliferation of all kinds of different accounting methods and software, keeping a company's "books" has become easier for some, but harder for others. If it can be shown that the suspect intentionally manipulated accounting records to conceal the theft of funds from an account for which the suspect was responsible, a conviction is a likely result. However, our New Jersey readers should keep in mind that there is typically quite a large paper trail involved in an embezzlement case, so getting the right evidence to prove the case is oftentimes hard for the prosecution in the first place.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement," accessed on Sept. 6, 2014

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