Embezzlement is a form of theft that is typically characterized by the misappropriation of funds by a person in a position of trust. Anybody who handles money can embezzle funds, from cashiers and bank tellers, to accountants and individuals in charge of large family estates.
According to recent studies, employee embezzlement is a massive – and growing – problem in the United States, accounting for about $400 billion in stolen funds annually. And embezzlement doesn’t discriminate based on company size; small mom-and-pop stores are just as at risk as giant corporations. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been charged with embezzlement.
How Are Investigations Into Employee Embezzlement Conducted?
Basically, they are conducted in much the same way as all other investigations into employee misconduct. Of course, the manner of the investigation will depend largely on the amount of money stolen – a few hundred dollars missing from the corner store isn’t likely to warrant the same investigation as a Fortune 500 company with millions in potentially-embezzled funds.
As with any employment investigation, both employer and employee have rights. In fact, employees have an extensive list of federal and state rights and protections. For example, without strict compliance with federal and state laws, an employer cannot use outside investigators, credit or background checks, monitoring devices, or polygraph tests to investigate an employee or an employee’s suspected misconduct.
If an employer suspects embezzlement, an investigation will likely be conducted to determine the following:
- Whether a theft actually occurred
- The total amount of the theft
- The method used to steal the funds
Once this information is available, the employer will likely terminate the person or persons responsible for the theft, and implement procedures that will prevent a similar theft from occurring again. The next step would be to try and recover the stolen money or property.
Penalties for Embezzlement
In MA, if you get convicted of embezzlement, the penalties will vary depending on the severity of the case and prior criminal history. These penalties may include:
- Value of money or property worth $250 or less: First offense carries penalties of between six months in jail and two-and-a-half years in prison, and a fine of up to $600.
- Value of money or property worth more than $250: Fine of up to $25,000 and up to five years in prison.
Were Your Rights Violated?
It’s important to remember that embezzlement is almost never caught by direct observation of the act. Suspicions are usually initiated by the report of another employee, through an audit, or are based on circumstantial evidence. Employers are usually quick to begin an investigation when embezzlement is suspected, lest they lose more money. For this reason, they often make mistakes, violate employee rights, or make incorrect assumptions based on rumors and personal opinions. A MA defense attorney can help you determine your rights and options if you are being investigated for embezzlement in the workplace. Continue reading