Embezzlement is not always a high-dollar crime. You can still commit the crime even if your gain is less than $1,000.

An embezzlement conviction is no laughing matter. It can taint your entire future because wherever you go, your conviction will follow. Renting an apartment, getting a job, even opening your own business can be significantly affected when you have an embezzlement conviction on your record.

This is definitely not a laughing matter. And you can’t just waltz into the courtroom without representation and hope for the best.

It can get pretty intense in there and you need to be prepared.

You need a criminal defense attorney.

Overview of Embezzlement

The United States Department of Justice defines embezzlement as the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come.”

It is a type of theft or larceny but differs because the perpetrator had the consent of the owner to possess it or when the person took it, it was done lawfully. Larceny, on the other hand, is based on the perpetrator’s felonious intent when the property was taken.

Under federal law, there are four elements that the prosecution must establish in order to prove the crime of embezzlement:

  1. A fiduciary or trust relationship existed between the private organization, local government, or state government and the defendant
  2. Possession of the property by the defendant came by virtue of their employment
  3. A fraudulent conversion or appropriation of the property occurred by the defendant’s dealing with the property, and the way they dealt with it constituted fraud
  4. The defendant’s actions to deprive the owner of his or her property or the use of it

The key is that while the defendant did have legal access to the other person’s property or money, they did not have legal ownership of the property or money.

While taking the money as their own is indeed stealing, or the crime of theft, because they were entrusted with the property to have in their possession or management, it then becomes embezzlement.

Federal Embezzlement Laws

Embezzlement becomes a federal crime when the property that was embezzled belongs to the federal government. Examples include:

  • An employee working in a position within a government agency who is responsible for managing federal property such as laptops, phones, etc. and the person takes several phones, intending to sell them for a profit
  • A park ranger steal property that belongs to a national park
  • A contractor for a federal agency who is working construction on a building steals building materials

In each of these scenarios, the property was paid for by the federal government and the person stole that property when they had been entrusted to manage it.

Federal laws on embezzlement are listed in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 31 – Embezzlement and Theft. Within that chapter, there are 30 statutes that describe and define various embezzlement (and theft) crimes that are prosecuted at the federal level. Each separate statute provides specific terms and definitions of the crime. They also provide information on what prosecutors must prove in order to obtain a conviction.

Other laws regarding embezzlement include:

New York Embezzlement Laws

Under New York law, embezzlement is grand larceny. This is because, in New York, there is not an actual crime specifically named embezzlement. It is referred to within the text of the law, but it is not given a separate and unique law. Instead, it is considered to be grand larceny.

To put it into simple terms, larceny is stealing. Embezzlement is stealing but it also refers to the action or method used to acquire the property in order to steal it.

Because the property is entrusted to the person who embezzles it, there is a higher degree of accountability and punishment because the crime is a breach of trust as well as theft. The amount or sum embezzled is also a strong determining factor in penalties as well as the severity of the crime.

There are four degrees of grand larceny, each is a felony.

New York Penal Law – Article 155

Penalties for a Federal Embezzlement Conviction

The penalties for federal embezzlement can all put you behind bars and leave you with a fine.

18 U.S. Code Chapter 31 – Embezzlement and theft

18 U.S. Code § 641 – Public money, property, or records

  • If the value of the property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine
  • If the value of the property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 642 – Tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 643 – Accounting generally for public money

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000 
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or Fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled whichever is greater 
  • If the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 644 – Banker receiving unauthorized deposit of public money

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000 
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or Fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled whichever is greater 
  • If the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine maximum $1,000

18 U.S. Code § 645 – Court officers generally

  • The offense is not otherwise punishable by enactment of Congress 
    • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
      • Maximum 10 years in prison
      • Fine (per title) or maximum double the amount of the value of the money embezzled, whichever is greater
    • If the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000
      • Maximum 1 year in prison
      • Fine, 

18 U.S. Code § 646 – Court officers depositing registry moneys

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 647 – Receiving loan from court officer

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 648 – Custodians, generally, misusing public funds

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 649– Custodians failing to deposit moneys; persons affected

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 650– Depositaries failing to safeguard deposits

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 651– Disbursing officer falsely certifying full payment

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or double the amount embezzled, whichever is greater 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 652– Disbursing officer paying lesser in lieu of lawful amount

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or double embezzled amount, whichever is greater 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 653– Disbursing officer misusing public funds

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 654– Officer or employee of United States converting property of another

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount, whichever is greater
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 655– Theft by bank examiner

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 5 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine
  • Disqualified from holding office as a  national bank examiner
  • Disqualified from holding office as a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation examiner

18 U.S. Code § 656– Theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by bank officer or employee

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 30 years in prison
    • Fine Maximum $1,000,000 
  • If the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 657– Lending, credit, and insurance institutions 

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 30 years in prison
    • Fine Maximum $1,000,000 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 658– Property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 5 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 659– Interstate or foreign shipments by carrier; State prosecutions

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 3 years in prison
    • Fine
  • If the offense involves a pre-retail medical product (as defined in section 670), it shall be punished under section 670 unless the penalties provided for under this section are greater.

18 U.S. Code § 660– Carrier’s funds derived from commerce; State prosecutions

  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 661– Within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000 or it was taken from the person of another
    • Maximum 5 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • All other cases
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine
  • If the property stolen consists of any evidence of debt, or other written instrument, the amount of money due thereon, or secured to be paid thereby and remaining unsatisfied, or which in any contingency might be collected thereon, or the value of the property the title to which is shown thereby, or the sum which might be recovered in the absence thereof, shall be the value of the property stolen.

18 U.S. Code § 662– Receiving stolen property within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 3 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 663– Solicitation or use of gifts

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 664– Theft or embezzlement from employee benefit plan

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 665– Theft or embezzlement from employment and training funds; improper inducement; obstruction of investigations

  • (a)
    • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
      • Maximum 2 years in prison
      • Fine 
    • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
      • Maximum 1 year in prison
      • Fine
  • (b) 
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine
  • (c) 
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 666– Theft or bribery concerning programs receiving Federal funds

  • (a)(2) 
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 667– Theft of livestock

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 668– Theft of major artwork

  • (b)(1)(2)
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 669– Theft or embezzlement in connection with health care

  • (a) 
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 670– Theft of medical products

(c)Criminal Penalties.—Whoever violates subsection (a)—

  • (1)if the offense is an aggravated offense under subsection (b)(2)(C), 
    • Maximum 30 years in prison
    • Fine
  • (2)if the value of the medical products involved in the offense is $5,000 or greater, 
    • Maximum 15 years in prison
    • Fine
  • If the offense is an aggravated offense other than one under subsection (b)(2)(C)
    • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • (3)in any other case
    • Maximum 3 years in prison
    • Fine
  • If the offense is an aggravated offense other than one under subsection (b)(2)(C), 
    • Maximum 5 years in prison

(d)Civil Penalties.—Whoever violates subsection (a) is subject to a civil penalty in an amount not more than the greater of—

  • (1)three times the economic loss attributable to the violation; or
  • (2)$1,000,000.

Other federal laws about embezzlement are:

18 U.S. Code § 1707 – Theft of property used by Postal Service

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 3 years in prison
    • Fine 
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

18 U.S. Code § 1708 – Theft or receipt of stolen mail matter generally

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 1709 – Theft of mail matter by officer or employee

  • Maximum 5 years in prison
  • Fine 

18 U.S. Code § 1711 – Misappropriation of postal funds

  • If the amount embezzled does exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 10 years in prison
    • Fine (per title) or maximum embezzled amount, whichever is greater
  • If the amount embezzles does not exceed $1,000
    • Maximum 1 year in prison
    • Fine

Penalties for an Embezzlement Conviction in New York

In New York, embezzlement is a felony. An embezzlement conviction carries significant penalties, including jail time.

  • 155.30 – Grand larceny in the fourth degree
    • Amount embezzled exceeds $1,000
      • Class E Felony
        • Minimum 1/3 years in prison
        • Maximum 4 years in prison
  • 155.35 – Grand larceny in the third degree
    • Amount embezzled exceeds $3,000 but is less than $50,000
      • Class D Felony
        • Minimum 2 1/3 years in prison
        • Maximum 7 years in prison
  • 155.40 – Grand larceny in the second degree
    • Amount embezzled exceeds $50,000 but is less than $1,000,000
      • Class C Felony
        • Minimum 5 years in prison
        • Maximum 15 years in prison
  • 155.42 – Grand larceny in the first degree
    • Amount embezzled exceeds $1,000,000
      • Class B Felony
        • Minimum 8 1/3 years in prison
        • Maximum 24 years in prison

Defenses for Embezzlement

Under the law, two accepted defenses can be used:

  • In any prosecution for larceny committed by trespassory taking or embezzlement, it is an affirmative defense that the property was appropriated under a claim of right made in good faith.
  • 2. In any prosecution for larceny by extortion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that he or another person would be charged with a crime, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant reasonably believed the threatened charge to be true and that his sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.

Other defenses against the crime of embezzlement include:

  • Lack of intent
  • Duress
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Lack of evidence
  • Discredit witnesses
  • Lack of proof of intent or actions of embezzlement
  • Mistaken identity
  • Insufficient evidence

Embezzlement is a serious crime at the federal and state level. If you think you may be under investigation of embezzlement or you have been charged with embezzlement, you can’t afford to sit around and wait to see what happens. You need an attorney fast.

Mr. Litvak of The Litvak Law Firm has the experience and knowledge that you need to navigate the complex legal system. His work with high-profile cases has provided him with invaluable experience and he will handle your case with the same tenacity, professionalism, knowledge, and discretion.

Call today at (718) 989-2908 for your free consultation. Get the representation you deserve and ensure that your rights are protected.