Embezzlement is a form of theft. It is a particularly heinous form of theft in that it typically involves the thief taking advantage of the trust placed in them by someone else to steal that person’s or company’s money or property. Like all theft offenses in New York, embezzlement is a serious crime. The penalties upon conviction will largely depend largely on the amount of money or goods stolen, but make no mistake, you can face life-altering consequences even if you embezzle relatively small amounts.
What is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement involves stealing money or property that you have been entrusted to hold secure. This crime often happens in workplace settings, when an employee has access to their employer’s funds and uses that access to transfer money to themselves without the company’s knowledge or consent. It can happen in many other circumstances as well. Money entrusted to financial advisors, guardians and estate administrators, even family members can be easily embezzled. The same trust that allows a person to abscond with funds also can be used by the embezzler to cover their tracks by falsifying books and records.
New York Embezzlement Law
Technically speaking, there is no specific crime of “embezzlement” under New York law. Rather, embezzlement is prosecuted under the state’s larceny laws.
New York Penal Law Section 155.05 provides that:
“A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.”
This includes “a wrongful taking, obtaining or withholding of another's property” through “larceny by trick, embezzlement, or obtaining property by false pretenses.”
There are four degrees of grand larceny under New York law, with increasing penalties based on the amount of money or value of property stolen:
- Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree: value in excess of $1,000. A class E felony.
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree: value in excess of $3,000. A class D felony.
- Grand Larceny in the Second Degree: value in excess of $50,000. A class C felony
- Grand Larceny in the First Degree: value in excess of $1 million. A class B felony.
There are many defenses available against larceny and embezzlement charges that a skilled and experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer can assert on your behalf. For example, the law provides that in any prosecution for larceny committed by embezzlement, it is an affirmative defense that the property was appropriated under a claim of right made in good faith. The best lawyers will know how to best protect your rights and fight prosecutors every step of the way.
At Epstein & Conroy, P.C., we have extensive experience representing defendants in white collar investigations and prosecutions throughout New York City in state and federal courts, including the defense of embezzlement charges. In each case, we work closely with our client, uncovering the key facts that lead to focused defense strategies. While we will seek to minimize the consequences of a trial conviction or negotiated plea, our first priority in every case is dismissal.