Being investigated for or accused of committing a crime can be a terrifying experience. After all, the outcome will have an enormous impact on your life, your family and your career. Embezzlement is a crime which most have heard of but they don’t necessarily understand, particularly at the federal level.
It’s a theft, but more than that
Embezzlement, at its heart, is a crime of theft. An individual is accused of taking something that did not belong to them. What makes embezzlement unique is the relationship between the person accused and the money or property taken. Embezzlement only occurs when the person has some level of authority or control over the property, but does not own it. It’s why it is considered a white-collar crime, because those accused are typically assigned authority over the property as a part of their employment.
Federal embezzlement charges arise because the money or property at issue somehow implicated the U.S. government. The most obvious example would be a federal employee who uses their position to embezzle public funds, but the law is not limited to federal employees. The manager of a private bank could commit federal embezzlement since the money at issue comes from the Treasury Department. Or someone who owns a business and has a federal contract could misappropriate federal property which they control for the contract.
The keys are that the individual has a fiduciary relationship with the property, they abuse their authority over the property to convert it to their own use and the federal government has an ownership interest in the property. It’s important to note that, in some cases, embezzlement can violate both federal and state law. Usually, the result is that one or the other will handle the case alone, but circumstances do arise when an individual can be charged in both jurisdictions.