Embezzlement of Funds – Stealing Money from Employer
Embezzlement is a type of financial crime that involves stealing funds while in a position of trust. Embezzlement occurs mainly in the workplace.
Stealing from your employer is an aggravated form of theft. It is a serious offence which can result in a custodial sentence.
If you have been accused of stealing from your employer, please contact us straightaway. Our criminal defence lawyers represent employees across British Columbia who are facing allegations of embezzlement, fraud and theft.
As an employee, you hold a position of trust in relation to your employer. In other words, your employer trusts you not to steal from them. That is why if you are accused of theft from your employer, it is much more troubling than an ordinary theft charge.
Here, we explain everything you need to know about embezzlement, including your rights as an employee.
What does embezzle mean?
Embezzlement is when a person entrusted with property (such as money) misappropriates it for their own benefit. Embezzlement is illegal in Canada. It falls under the banner of theft offences. You can go to jail for embezzlement.
Which is the most common form of embezzlement?
Stealing from your employer is the most common form of embezzlement.
As we know from defending employee theft cases, workplace embezzlement occurs in lots of different ways. An example is where an employee siphons funds from the company account for their own personal use without the authorisation of the shareholders.
Other examples of embezzlement include:
- Cash skimming
- Forging cheques
- Stealing bank cards or credit card information
- Exaggerating expenses
- Claiming business expenses twice (double dipping)
- Stealing supplies
- Using company credit cards for personal use
- Falsifying overtime
Is embezzlement a federal crime?
Embezzlement is an aggravated form of theft, which is a federal crime under Canada’s Criminal Code.
When a crime is ‘aggravated’, it means there are aggravating factors that increase the crime’s severity. Breach of trust is an aggravating factor – such as the breach of trust that occurs when an employee steals from their employer. Because of this, embezzlement is taken more seriously by the courts.
Is theft the same as embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a form of theft. There is not a separate offence of embezzlement in Canada. If you are accused of stealing from your employer, you will probably be charged under section 334 of the Criminal Code, which covers theft offences.
Are there prison sentences for theft?
In Canada, theft is divided into two separate offences – theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000. Prison sentences are possible for both types of theft. The maximum penalty for embezzlement is:
- Two years’ imprisonment for theft under $5,000
- 10 years’ imprisonment for theft over $5,000
Find out more in our blog: Can You Go to Jail for Embezzlement?
Maximum prison sentences are rarely handed out. With the right approach, it may be possible to secure a conditional discharge or a suspended sentence. You may even be able to avoid a criminal record by negotiating a restitution payment with your employer. This is something our defence lawyers can help you with.
Fraud and embezzlement charges
Fraud and theft charges often go hand-in-hand, as an employee may embezzle funds by concealing or misrepresenting the truth. This was relevant when one of our clients submitted false receipts and financial statements to fraudulently obtain funds from her employer.
Fraud is usually charged under section 380 of the Criminal Code. Financial fraud is similar to theft but it involves an element of deceit or dishonesty.
Can employers press charges for theft?
Employers can press charges for theft and fraud. Often what happens is that the employer accuses the employee of stealing. The employer investigates the employee’s actions and the information is handed over to the police.
The police take financial fraud and theft very seriously. If there is enough evidence to suggest you have been stealing from your employer, formal charges will be laid. You will be charged with theft and possibly also financial fraud.
Employee rights when accused of theft
You have the right to remain silent when accused of stealing from your employer. You also have the right to instruct a defence lawyer. These are both actions that we strongly recommend.
Even if you have done nothing wrong, just the accusation of theft can have terrible consequences. Your employer may terminate your employment and/or seek to have you charged with theft under the Criminal Code.
Early legal advice is essential. You might be interrogated by your employer in the hope that you will confess. We advise that your exercise your right to remain silent until you have spoken to a defence lawyer from our team. We can guide you through the next steps.
To prove embezzlement, the prosecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that you misappropriated funds. If there is insufficient evidence to prove embezzlement, or you have a defence, we can work to secure an acquittal. You might have a defence to embezzlement if:
- You owned the property
- You genuinely thought you were entitled to the money
- You were given consent to take possession of the goods
If you accept wrongdoing, it is often possible to negotiate the repayment of embezzled funds without involving the police. This is the best possible outcome, as the information will not be forwarded to the authorities. This means you avoid criminal charges and the stigma of a criminal record.
Where a criminal conviction is inevitable, there may be mitigating circumstances that need to be brought to the court’s attention. This may persuade the court to impose a more lenient sentence, such as a suspended sentence or conditional discharge.
Mitigating factors were applicable when our client stole around $500,000 worth of high-end liquor from his employer. He had a gambling addiction at the time of the offence. The court accepted that our client’s rehabilitation was a priority and imposed a suspended sentence. No jail time was served.
Speak to a defence lawyer
Being charged with theft from an employer can result in a criminal record and a jail sentence. A defence lawyer from our team can devise the best strategy in your case. We can often negotiate a restitution payment so that the employer recovers their losses without formal charges being laid.
We recommend that you contact us as soon as the allegations are made, even if the matter has not yet been progressed to the police.
For further information about how Mickelson & Whysall can help you – please contact us for a free initial consultation at our Vancouver law office.