Understanding the unique nature of embezzlement

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2022 | White Collar Offenses |

Many white-collar crimes are complex in nature. Fraud, racketeering and money laundering are examples of common white-collar crimes which often involve many moving parts and can be difficult to pin down exactly what happened and when. Embezzlement, on the other hand, is relatively straight-forward as a concept – but it also requires a particular set of circumstances.

Embezzlement explained

At its heart, embezzlement is a theft offense. And, in fact, Tennessee does not have a separate statute specifically for the crime of embezzlement. Instead, it is subsumed with other theft offenses in Tennessee Code Section 39-14-104 and other statutes. What separates the idea of embezzlement from other theft offenses is the relationship between the property in question and the person accused of stealing it.

In most theft offenses, an individual is appropriating property over which they have no control or ownership. With embezzlement, however, the accused does have rightful control over the property – this is the very essence of embezzlement. When an individual is trusted with money, property or assets, but then wrongfully appropriates it for their own use, embezzlement is the result.

Another key difference between embezzlement and other theft offenses is that overlap can occur between the state crime and the federal crime. For instance, if a contractor was to appropriate materials for a local project, but those materials were part of a federal contract, they could be implicated both federally and by Tennessee. So too could a bank manager who embezzled funds, since they would involve the Treasury Department.

In practice, when there is overlap, an individual is usually charged by either the federal government or Tennessee, but not both. However, there are circumstances where both agencies can bring charges, and each have different punishments and sentencing guidelines. If an allegation of embezzlement has been leveled against you, it is critical that you seek professional assistance in order to formulate the best defense possible.