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Understanding the difference between larceny and embezzlement

According to the National White Crime Collar Center, theft by employees, typically embezzlement, ranks high as one of the most prevalent and costly problems facing today's public and private business organizations. Understanding the difference between the two crimes is an important part of understanding the charges you face. The distinction is complex, but we'll try to explain them both.

How is larceny defined?

Larceny is defined as the "taking of someone's property," typically without force. The crime includes four elements:

  • Unlawful taking and carrying away
  • Someone else's property
  • No consent of the owner
  • Intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property

These four elements must be present for you to be charged with larceny. The amount of the property in question determines whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Even taking property away for a short time or temporarily might be considered larceny. For example, joyriding could be classified as a larceny. Typically, larceny has been limited to tangible objects, but courts are now considering computer services and trade secrets as property in the information age.

How is embezzlement defined?

The FBI defines embezzlement as "the unlawful misappropriation or misapplication by an offender to his/her own use or purpose of money, property, or some other thing of value entrusted to his/her care, custody, or control." Essentially, this means a person was entrusted to take care of something, such as a bank account or a piece of equipment. The person was supposed to use this money or tool for work purposes, but choose to misappropriate the item for personal use.

At one time, embezzlement fell under the umbrella of theft crimes, but it was redefined when larceny statutes were inadequate to prosecute individuals who breached a fiduciary trust. Traditionally, many embezzlement cases were handled internally, but today, it's more likely that the company will step forward and bring charges against people who are believed to have committed this crime. The Small Business Administration estimates that about five percent of a company's annual revenue is lost through employee fraud. Because this affects the company's bottom line, businesses are viewing embezzlement much more seriously than ever before.

Have you been charged with a crime?

Our experienced criminal attorneys understand larceny, embezzlement and theft charges. We're here to help you find the best outcome for your case. Give our office a call and find an advocate for your side. You deserve to have someone fighting for you and protecting your rights.

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