Embezzlement -- Understanding the Fine Line
California Penal Code 503, defines embezzlement as the "fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted." The crime of embezzlement may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances involved. Keep in mind, embezzlement charges are appropriate only when someone has entrusted you with specific property or funds and you have misused those funds with an intent to deprive the rightful owner access. Here are some scenarios that may apply:
- Company credit card - as a receptionist in a company, you have a company credit card for the purposes of booking flights and hotels for the sales staff. You go to the local office supply store and purchase office supplies for the office and fill your car with fuel at the same time. You maintain you have done nothing wrong though your employer accuses you of embezzling funds. In this case, the charges may be reduced to petty theft since you had a reasonable belief (right or wrong) that this was an appropriate use of funds.
- Company petty cash - as a trusted member of a company, you have access to the company's petty cash fund. An important meeting with a client is coming up and you need a new suit. Since you do not have the funds available to purchase one, you "borrow" the funds from petty cash with the intention of repaying the funds. This action, while it may seem reasonable to you, is considered embezzlement since you have utilized funds for your own purpose. Just because you intend to repay the funds does not excuse the action.
- Company car - you have a company car that is used specifically for company travel. You have just returned from a business trip and it is late on a Friday. You decide to keep the car at your home over the weekend. On Sunday, you take your family on a day trip using the company vehicle and you are involved in a minor accident. While you can defend your actions by stating your own car was not running properly, this may be punishable under the California embezzlement statutes.
You may not be aware you are facing embezzlement charges as oftentimes, employers will not advise you they are investigating you. Your first notification may be when a police officer shows up with a search warrant to search your home or your office.
If you are under investigation for embezzlement or the related offenses of grand theft and fraud, contact the Law Office of Nicolai Cocis & Associates immediately. We represent individuals facing such charges in the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Menifee, Perris, Banning, Corona or Riverside, California. We can help with your defense! Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to have the charges reduced or eliminated completely.