Embezzlement is a type of property crime in California

Embezzlement is a kind of property crime under the state laws of California. The crime of embezzlement generally requires the defendant to “convert” or deal with another’s property in a way that is inconsistent with the agreement between the defendant and the property owner. When a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or handle someone else’s money or property, steals any part of that money or property for his own personal gain is considered embezzlement. Most embezzlement prosecutions take place at the state level. Embezzlement may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony dependent on the value of the property taken by the defendant.

The pivotal concept in the crime of embezzlement is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Stealing is the taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain. If the defendant violates a special position of trust in commission of the theft, that theft constitutes the crime of embezzlement.

Embezzlement of Lunch Money in Rialto, California

Embezzlement is very similar to larceny, in that both crimes involve the taking of property belonging to another. Again, the key difference is that larceny can be committed by anyone, while embezzlement requires a defendant who has been entrusted with the property. Police in Rialto, California allege that a former school district accountant spent seven years embezzling as much as $3 million in student lunch money from the school district, and say they have video of the woman stuffing cash into her bra before leaving work. “Obviously she had access to large sums of money and she was able to possess those large sums of money and get them out of the building,” a Rialto police captain told local news.

Embezzlement Can Be Charged Under State or Federal Law

There are some case in which state and federal embezzlement laws overlap, as in embezzlement by bank employees. A crime of this type is often included within state embezzlement laws, but it’s also a federal offense. In some situations it is possible for both federal and state prosecutors to file charges, though usually only one office proceeds with the case.

Because it closely resembles other property crimes such as larceny, a successful defense may seek to define the exact circumstances of the offense of which the defendant has been accused. This is true of any crime, but it is especially important when dealing with embezzlement. Even if the defendant acted improperly, it may be possible to defend the charges by showing that the conduct does not qualify as embezzlement.

Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman