What is embezzlement under California law?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2021 | Criminal defense |

Ever since ambitious gold prospectors flooded the West Coast and con artists followed to siphon their spoils, embezzlement has been a part of California’s legal landscape. What exactly is it, and are there ways to prevent it?

What is embezzlement, legally speaking?

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime in which parties misappropriate funds or assets entrusted to them. It is different from theft because malefactors rightfully possess the money or material goods in question but misuse them. In legalese, embezzlement is a type of fiduciary breach.

Examples of embezzlement

A Ponzi scheme is when someone collects money under the auspices of investing it and then uses the funds for their own gain or profit. To keep the scam going, perpetrators encourage victims to keep all their money invested. If someone insists on withdrawing funds, the Ponzi operators usually find new investors to pay off earlier investors. In layman’s terms, it’s a “rob Peter to pay Paul” setup.

Perhaps the best-known Ponzi embezzler of late was Bernie Madoff. He misappropriated approximately $17.5 billion from unassuming investors for several decades.

Another well-known embezzlement case involved comedian Dane Cook. A business manager stole millions of dollars from the entertainer and forged his signature on checks. Ultimately, the business manager landed in jail when Cook figured it out.

Embezzlement penalties

Depending on the situation, embezzlement charges can be brought in both civil and criminal courts. Either way, individuals accused of the act may want to contact a criminal defense attorney. Those convicted of embezzlement have faced a 30-year prison sentence in the most egregious cases, and massive fines are another possibility, so it’s important to prepare a defense.