What is Embezzlement, and What to Do If You’re Accused of It 

White collar crime is typically described as a victimless crime; however, the white-collar crime of embezzlement can ruin relationships, families, trust, and even lives. Embezzlement tends to hit victims harder because the perpetrator is someone they know and trust. Keep reading to learn more about embezzlement and what to do if you’re accused of it in New Jersey. 


Taking or stealing property that is entrusted to you to monitor or manage with no intent of ever giving it back sums up what embezzlement is. The person taking the property has access to something of value, like a cash register, that they are given the job to manage. The same person takes money from the register without the permission of the rightful owner; that person has committed embezzlement. 

Embezzlement has a narrower definition than larceny, which is the act of taking something that does not belong to you, and fraud, which is using deceptive means to gain access to something that does not belong to you. Larceny and fraud are often present in crimes of embezzlement, but embezzlement has the added element of violated trust.

Most embezzlement takes place in the workplace, but it can also occur in volunteer organizations or between individuals. Small to medium sized businesses are most susceptible because they do not have the oversight that large corporations do, and therefore are easier to take advantage of. 

Types of Embezzlement 

There are many tactics used to embezzle entrusted funds or assets, these include: 

Cash Skimming: This happens when the person embezzling takes a small amount of cash over time from a cash register, or an account, without recording it. They “skim” some money off the top which usually goes unnoticed. 

Kickbacks: These occur when some sort of financial gain arises from preferential treatment of a person or company. A politician might receive cash for voting a certain way, or a business may select company A to pave their parking lot for a stipend. Kickbacks are hard to prove because the person taking them takes care not to leave a paper trail. 

Cheque Kiting: Cheque (or check) kiting is the deliberate issuance of a check for which there is not sufficient cash to pay the stated amount. It works this way: 

  1. Write a check from an account with insufficient funds to cover the amount
  2. Open another checking account at a different bank
  3. Deposit the fraudulent check in the account that was just opened
  4. Withdraw the funds from the new checking account 

Payroll & Overtime: Both of these types of embezzlement include paying employees for time that wasn’t actually worked. Examples would include an employee claiming overtime hours when none were worked and collecting the extra pay, or an HR employee entering fake names into payroll and collecting checks on behalf of those false employees. 

Ponzi Schemes: Most recently made famous by Bernie Madoff and the billions of dollars that he embezzled from unsuspecting investors, these schemes are similar to check kiting but the victims are individuals, not companies. The steps in a ponzi scheme include: 

  • The embezzler offers an investment opportunity with attractive terms (a high return) 
  • People invest their money 
  • As more people invest, the fraudster uses the money from the newer investors to pay dividends to the original investors giving the impression that their investment was successful 
  • The scheme gets to the point where it is not sustainable and dividends are not paid. Many of the investors lose all the money they invested. 

As technology continues to advance and play a part in almost every transaction we have, embezzlement may be more common. However, with security measures also advancing, embezzlement is easier to detect. 

Punishment for Embezzlement in New Jersey

The Financial Crimes Investigations Unit of the New Jersey State Police investigates cases involving embezzlement, as well as other financial crimes. The punishment for embezzlement depends on the amount of money or assets embezzled. 

If the amount is less than $200, the embezzlement is a disorderly persons offense, but if the amount is between $200-$500, the crime turns into a fourth degree felony. As the amount of money embezzled increases, so do the punishments. 

A conviction of embezzling $200-$500 may result in a $10,000 fine or up to double the amount embezzled; you may also face 18 months in prison. If you are convicted of embezzling $500 to less than $75,000, your fine could be $150K or up to double the amount embezzled along with 3-5 years in prison. Embezzling more than $75K will result in up to $150K in fines and 5-10 years in prison. 

What to Do If You’re Accused of Embezzlement

If you, or someone close to you, has been accused of embezzlement the best action you can take is to secure a criminal defense attorney who has experience defending against an embezzlement charge. 

The team of lawyers at the Law Office of Robert J. DeGroot offers a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to defending embezzlement charges. Taking the time to understand your case and developing the best defense possible is what we do! 

If you or someone you know is facing charges of embezzlement, reach out to the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot today! Our team of expert attorneys can defend your case!