Embezzlement is a term most of us don’t typically hear about outside of cop dramas on TV, but chances are good we’ve been a lot closer to this particular crime than we care to think about. Just ask how many people you know who’ve taken something, anything, from work for personal use or gain. It’s pretty likely that, under Minnesota law, that person might qualify as an embezzler.
WHAT IS EMBEZZLEMENT?
The simple definition of the crime is that embezzlement is when someone entrusted with property or resources chooses to illegally convert them into his or her own personal property. As an example, if you’re a company CEO who takes millions of dollars out of the company pension, and puts it in his own bank account, then you’re embezzling those funds for your own use. If you’re a cashier who helps herself to an occasional $20 from her drawer, you’re also embezzling. You’re just doing it on a different scale than the CEO. Did you take a box of pens out of the closet at work, slip them into your pocket, and bring them home?
Yep, you’re still embezzling. At least under the technical definition of the crime.
What makes embezzlement different from theft is that you took a property you were entrusted with that wasn’t yours. That breach of trust is an important element of the crime. Whether it’s a handful of change from the slush drawer, or diamonds out of a jewelry store’s cabinet, the crime’s description is the same.
WHAT’S THE PUNISHMENT FOR EMBEZZLING?
Under Minnesota law, embezzlement carries different penalties depending on the amount of money (or value of the property) someone is convicted of embezzling.
Minnesota statute 609.52 states that if you are convicted of embezzling less than $500, then you may be subject to up to 90 days in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For amounts between $501 and $1,000, those penalties increase to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $3,000. For amounts of $1,001 to $5,000, the penalties increase to 5 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. This punishment may also be used for those with previous convictions, those who took public vehicles, or those who took Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances. If the value was between $5,001 and $35,000, the penalty increases to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $20,000. This punishment can also be used for those who dealt in trade secrets, Schedule I or II substances, or explosive devices. And if the value of the property is over $35,000, then the penalty increases to 25 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $100,000. A theft of firearms always falls under this category regardless of the firearms’ value under Minnesota law.
If the embezzlement case involved public funds, though, there are slightly different rules. For example, if the value was $2,500 or less, then the penalty is a prison sentence of up to 5 years, and a fine of up to $10,000. If the funds were more than $2,500, then the penalty is a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $20,000.
GET SOMEONE WHO WILL HELP YOU
While it’s true you aren’t likely to be prosecuted for stealing a ball point pen, or for using company paper and toner to print out an occasional personal document, it is important to check with someone to make sure your use of resources is acceptable under company policy. Even if you aren’t prosecuted for embezzlement, you may still get fired for taking stuff that you’re allowed to work with, but which isn’t really yours.
If you’re involved in an embezzlement case, and you need legal experts to help you, simply contact us today!