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Understanding Embezzlement

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2014 | Uncategorized

Embezzlement is a white collar crime that can be charged as either a state crime or a federal offense depending upon who is the victim of the crime. In general, the state of Oklahoma will prosecute embezzlement that occurs within the borders of the state, unless the act involves theft or misappropriation from a federal agency, a tribe, or any agency or organization using federal funds.

What is embezzlement?

Oklahoma law defines embezzlement as “the fraudulent appropriation of property of any person or legal entity, legally obtained, to any use or purpose not intended or authorized by its owner, or the secretion of the property with the fraudulent intent to appropriate it to such use or purpose” (21 O.S. 1451). In other words, if you are entrusted to the cash, credit cards, financial accounts, or physical property of a company or organization, and you use the money or property for personal gain or for any other unintended purpose, you are guilty of embezzlement.

State law further says that an embezzlement charge does not require that the defendant actively took anything, but rather, he or she can be criminally charged for converting property to one’s own use or misappropriating it.

This means that a person can be charged with embezzlement for any of the following acts:

  • Directly taking money from the company’s safe or cash register tills
  • Using a company credit card for personal purchases
  • Writing business checks to oneself
  • Falsifying timesheets
  • Using business checks for personal purchases
  • Using a company car for personal errands or trips
  • Submitting mileage reimbursement claims for personal trips
  • Using a company gas card to buy gas for one’s personal vehicles
  • Stealing office supplies
  • Taking a company laptop home for personal use
  • and any other act of using the organization’s funds or property in an unauthorized manner.

Often, those who find themselves criminally charged for embezzling money or property never intended to steal. In fact, many of them say that they meant to repay anything before anyone ever noticed it was missing. However, 21 O.S. 1460 specifically states, “The fact that the accused intended to restore the property embezzled is no ground of defense, or of mitigation of punishment, if it has not been restored before an information has been laid before a magistrate, charging the commission of the offense.” In other words, your intent to repay does not matter–only the fact that you took, misappropriated, or fraudulently converted the money or property of the organization.

Embezzlement is penalized according to the value of the misappropriated property:

  • Less than $500 – misdemeanor, maximum of 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000
  • $500 to $999.99 – felony,  maximum of 1 year in jail, a fine of $5,000, and restitution
  • $1,000 to $24,999.99 – felony, maximum of 5 years in prison, a fine of $5,000, and restitution
  • $25,000 or more – felony, maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine of $10,000, and restitution

If you are accused of embezzling funds or property, do not speak with investigators, even in an attempt to clear things up. By speaking to police or others about your case, you could inadvertently incriminate yourself rather than exonerate yourself. Contact a white collar defense lawyer at once and let him do the talking for you.


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