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What is the legal definition of embezzlement?

In the North Carolina General Statutes, the crime of embezzlement is referenced in Chapter 14, Article 18. In general, embezzlement refers to the theft or larceny of money, property or other assets by an individual in a position of responsibility or trust over said resources and usually takes place in corporate and other employment settings.

Sometimes, in order to cover up evidence of the crime, accused embezzlers manipulate accounting records. This can occur if someone is tasked with the responsibility of managing another's money but instead converts or misappropriates these assets for their own use and personal gain.

Two example of those who may be tempted to embezzle are store clerks and bank tellers, both of whom handle others' money throughout the course of their working day.

Embezzlement can take place over time, with small increments of money being converted for personal use over months or even years before the discrepancy is noticed. Others who stand accused of the crime may have allegedly taken one large sum in a single incident. This can be accomplished though falsifying payroll checks to non-existent employees, falsifying accounting records, billing for fraudulent goods or services or via complicated Ponzi schemes. There are many creative methods embezzlers have employed.

In some cases, the embezzled assets are not cash, as when an employee misuses company property like vehicles or computer equipment as their own.

Four elements must be proven to secure a conviction for embezzlement.

-- A fiduciary relationship must exist between the party accused of embezzling and the alleged victim, meaning that one relies upon the other.

-- The accused must have acquired the asset or resource via that relationship and not in another way.

-- The accused must have taken actual ownership of the embezzled resource or asset or facilitated its transfer to another person or corporate entity.

-- The accused must have done so intentionally.

Embezzlement is a serious felony charge that can carry stiff penalties. A North Carolina criminal defense attorney can advise those accused of these crimes on their best defense options.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement" Nov. 16, 2014

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