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What constitutes embezzlement?

Most people in Minnesota have heard the term embezzlement tossed around on the news or evening crime shows, but these reports typically don't actually explain the specific nature of the crime. It's possible that those who have been accused of embezzlement may be unsure of exactly what their charges entail. At its most basic, allegations of embezzlement come down to the suspicion of theft.

Unlike someone who may be accused of theft for supposedly taking a purse from a store, embezzlement is more specific. An individual must fill some type of position or role that puts him or her as the responsible individual for the assets that he or she is suspected of taking. Sometimes, people in charge of friends' or loved ones' estates may be suspected of embezzling funds. Often, though, this type of charge is usually found within a business or corporation.

While allegations of embezzling may be as simple as sneaking a few dollars here or there while working as a bank teller, other accusations include writing payroll checks to employees that never existed in the first place. Other actions that may be construed as embezzlement include filing a false bill or tweaking company records. Sometimes, the funds are transferred to an individual outside of the company, while in other situations the person keeps the funds for him- or herself.

However, simply suspecting that a person has embezzled funds is not enough to convict him or her on charges. The defendant will never have to bear the burden the burden of proof, and the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused purposely fulfilled every legal element of an embezzlement charge. As such, those who have been accused of embezzlement in Minnesota must have their rights and presumption of innocence protected throughout the entirety of trial court proceedings.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement", Dec. 22, 2014

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Joseph S. Friedberg Chartered

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