Embezzlement consists of the misappropriation or secret stealing of financial assets. This offense is usually executed by one or more individuals to whom the assets have been entrusted. In other words, embezzlement is the fraudulent misappropriation of goods of another by a servant, an agent or any other person to whom possession of the goods has been entrusted. It occurs when a person gains possession of goods lawfully and then misappropriates them. Embezzlement is a type of financial fraud in which assets that were initially attained lawfully are embezzled by a person who had the responsibility to look after them.
Common elements of embezzlement are: (i) property must belong to a person other than the accused; (ii) property must be converted subsequent to the defendant’s original and lawful possession of it; (iii) the defendant must be in a position of trust, so that the property is held by him or her pursuant to some fiduciary duty; (iv) the defendant must have an intent to defraud the owner at the time of the conversion. Embezzlement may be of small amounts or large sums. One or more persons may be guilty of embezzlement. If there is a conspiracy to embezzle, all parties to the agreement are liable as principals. A person who aids and abets in the conversion can also be guilty of the offense.
Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code describes various forms of embezzlement and their penalties. For example, Section 656 covers theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by a bank officer or employee. Embezzlement of public money, property, or records is covered in Section 641 of the US Code. Since the offense is defined differently in several jurisdictions, the punishment for embezzlement also varies. Generally, the penalty includes payment of fines, imprisonment, or both.