Ford O'Brien, LLP

It's unethical, but did you know it could be embezzlement?

Embezzlement occurs anytime someone misappropriates funds from an employer, whether the payoff is big or small. For some people, one small action--just this once--can lead to a series of bad choices that lead to criminal charges.

What unethical scenarios qualify as embezzlement?

  • Let's say you take a client to an extravagant lunch. You order a three-course meal and ask your employer for a reimbursement that exceeds the company's policy. Technically, you have misappropriated funds by exceeding the allowable rate for a lunch meeting. Like it or not, this may be an actionable offense.
  • On a company trip, you fudge the numbers on your report and use the company credit card for personal expenses. Asking for a reimbursement of non-business expenses may be illegal.
  • You ask for reimbursement for a business expense both via credit card and cash. This is called "double dipping." Keeping both reimbursements could get you in big trouble, especially if an audit takes place.

Other examples of embezzlement include:

  • Faking vendor payments
  • Taking kickbacks from vendors
  • Forging checks
  • Overbilling customers
  • Cashing customer checks
  • Siphoning off cash deposits
  • Failing to remit payroll tax money
  • Corporate espionage / selling trade secrets

Embezzlement can be a felony under state or federal law, depending on the circumstances. Penalties are stiff, including jail time and hefty fines.

If you or someone you know may have have engaged in embezzlement, knowingly or unintentionally, the defense attorneys at Ford O'Brien can explain your rights and options.

Source: "25 Examples of Embezzlement and Workplace Theft," Small Business Trends, Sept. 2019

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