Embezzlement ranges from skimming a few dollars out of the cash register here and there to transfer firing millions of company dollars into personal accounts. It’s a major crime, and perpetrators are usually charged under state law with felony theft. There are numerous ways to commit this crime, and a great financial crime lawyer knows all of them. Some of the ways this fraud occurs are quite surprising.
Ask a Financial Crime Lawyer: 9 Surprising Situations that Could Count as Embezzlement
1. Forging Checks
This manner of embezzlement is made easy if your company uses a stamp with a signature on it so an executive doesn’t have to sign checks in person. An employee can then take a company check and write it out to themselves. They can take any sum of money they wish from the company, and once they get rid of the evidence, they can easily get away with the crime.
Embezzlement defense lawyers in Houston are prepared to work with people who’ve committed this crime and all of the crimes below.
2. Stealing Customer Payments
Back before electronic payments became more prevalent, employees could cash checks for the company but keep the funds. The modern equivalent of this is setting up a bank account with a name similar to the employer’s and sending company payments into that. This is usually achieved by working through a small bank that’s lax when it comes to employees using “doing business as” names for their boss.
3. Over Billing Customers
An employee may overbill a customer, keep the extra cash, then hide the evidence with false entries into the accounting books. There are numerous ways this can be done, from inventing a fake processing fee to adding additional charges for services customers didn’t purchase.
4. Buying Personal Items on a Company Credit Card
This instance of investment is one of the most surprising. If an employee pays for personal expenses using a card designated for company ones, then it counts as embezzlement. This crime is typically easy to catch unless the employee also has access to the accounting system, where they can create false accounting records to cover their tracks.
You can easily commit this crime unknowingly by using the company card for a personal purchase, even if you plan to “even it out” later by using your personal card for a company expense. You might do this if your personal card is maxed out and your personal purchase is an emergency. Your boss may still view this as stealing from the company despite your intent to pay it off at a later date.
5. Taking Cash from Fundraisers
Taking cash from charitable fundraisers organized by your company is a form of embezzlement. The money being stolen may not belong to your employers, but it still counts as fraud if you steal it before it makes its way to the charity or non-profit it was raised for.
If you’re employed by a non-profit organization and you steal funds raised during the organization’s charitable events and fundraisers, then you’re also committing embezzlement.
6. Stealing Office Supplies
You may use something every day at the office, but if you decide to take it home for personal use, then it’s theft. This is a form of embezzlement. Many office supplies are quite valuable, and employees taking them home for themselves means the office has to replace the stolen goods. You’re having a financial impact on the company when you take supplies for yourself.
7. Stealing Products
Retail employees who steal products such as clothing, beauty care products, jewelry, and more, are committing a form of embezzlement. These crimes are usually committed in small retail businesses that lack good tracking systems for their stock.
When waiters neglect to charge their friends and family for meals, it also counts as stealing products from the workplace. It’s a serious crime that has a financial impact on the business.
8. Selling Trade Secrets
An employee who’s selling sensitive company information to a competitor is committing corporate espionage. This makes their company lose money, and it’s a criminal offense that can fall under the umbrella of embezzlement. For example, a Google employee stole files full of self-driving car technology when moving to another company, and the employee was indicted on criminal charges and faced 18 months in prison.
9. Opening a New Businesses with Company Time or Resources
If an employee opens their own business using company time and resources, then this is theft. It still counts as theft if the employee only does this on company time but leaves the company’s resources alone. Products created on company time may be the intellectual property of your employer.
Embezzlement doesn’t just mean stealing money. Stealing company time and resources also counts as an instance of this fraudulent crime. These crimes can occasionally be done unknowingly, but they’re predominantly the work of a white-collar criminal. An excellent financial crime attorney, however, can help you win a lesser punishment in both cases.