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White collar crimes: What are the elements of embezzlement?

Arrests for embezzlement are frequently reported in the media nationwide, including in Michigan. What defines embezzlement? Classified as one of a number of white collar crimes, it mostly occurs in corporate settings. It usually involves a person who is responsible for handling assets and in a position of trust. Those who face embezzlement charges are typically accused of converting business property with which they were entrusted to their own use for personal gain.

The methods that embezzlers use vary from those who help themselves to a significant amount of funds in a one-time transaction, to others who devise schemes to embezzle small amounts over time. It could even involve the misappropriation of property such as laptops or vehicles that belong to the company. Some add fictitious employees to the payroll, or issue fraudulent billing for services not provided.

However, an embezzlement charge cannot be valid if specific factors are not present. The defendant must have a fiduciary relationship with the alleged victim, and there must be proof that the defendant did not acquire the property in a manner other than through the relationship. Furthermore, it must be shown that the ownership of funds or property was transferred to the defendant or another party and that it was intentional.

Anyone in Michigan who is accused of embezzlement or other white collar crimes need not lose hope because a meaningful defense to formal accusations is possible. However, this is a task best navigated by an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the burden of proof will be that of the government, a strong advocate for the defendant can directly challenge the elements of the alleged crime, while working to achieve the best possible outcome for the client.

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