*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

Words take on a different meaning when they’re used in a legal setting. Successful prosecutors, for example, have been able to strengthen their charges based on a defendant’s misunderstandings of the legal terms used against them.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the language that’s used by the courts and their representatives. Additionally, if you make an effort to more thoroughly understand legal terminology, you’ll be able to get more out of any criminal records checks you may perform at PeopleFinders.

Embezzlement is a legal term that has had its legal meaning obscured by the overuse of Ponzi schemes. If you notice “embezzlement” on a PeopleFinders criminal records report, make sure you read the rest of the report with care so you can accurately understand how embezzlement may really play into the situation at hand.

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement describes the process through which a person or organization comes into the lawful possession of money or property, but who does not return that money or property to its original owner. Alternatively, an embezzler can use the money and/or property that they’ve come into for illegal purposes.

Embezzlement is, effectively, the illegal process of conversion. Say, for example, a bass player in a famous rock band gives their bass to a delivery boy and tells him to send it to their mother. If that delivery boy instead takes the bass and uses it to start his own band, he has embezzled.

Even though each state adheres to a different understanding of embezzlement, the process always includes the following features:

  • The lawful transference of funds or property from one party to another
  • The illegal conversion of the funds or property provided
  • The refusal on the part of the receiving party to return the funds or property they were given

These elements neglect to mention the intentionality essential to embezzlement. If we break down the process of embezzlement on a step-by-step level, that process looks like this:

  1. One person, engaged in a fiduciary relationship with another person, receives temporary possession of funds or property.
  2. That receiver, to be known as the defendant, must take on ownership of the funds or property. Alternatively, they may transfer ownership of the property or funds to another person.
  3. That transfer or possession must be intentional.

What Are the Different Types of Embezzlement?

There are several different types of embezzlement. These include:

  • The draining of funds or property
  • The selling of property
  • The gifting of funds or property
  • The damaging of property
  • The refusal to return gifted property or funds to their original owner

You will note that every type of embezzlement requires malicious intent. However, not all embezzlement is intentional. If an unsuspecting person moves temporarily-gifted property even a short distance away from its intended destination and the original owner disapproves, the receiver can be charged with embezzlement.

Who Embezzles Property?

The most common embezzlers are individuals working in a business or corporate setting who have access to funds or other property on a daily basis. The term “skimming off the top” describes the process of embezzlement in this type of setting.

Ponzi schemes are famous examples of embezzlement. The individuals who perpetrate such schemes style themselves as snake oil salesmen or as trustworthy business partners who, in time, learn to illegally obtain financial control over a significant audience.

What Can a Person Embezzle?

As mentioned, a person can embezzle more than money, though money is one of the more common items stolen in the process of embezzlement. This money can be taken all at once or skimmed slowly in small bunches. Either way, taking money from an employer or another person without their knowledge and in the above-elaborated manner can be considered embezzlement in a court of law.

However, embezzlers can also seize property. This includes computers, vehicles, land, jewelry, or even things as simple as books, clothing, or other seemingly low-value household items. As long as the item removed from its original owner’s possession is considered that person’s property, it can be embezzled.

Public funds or government-owned property can also be embezzled by individuals who have access to either possession.

What Does Embezzlement Mean In a Criminal Records Report?

When embezzlement appears during one of PeopleFinders' criminal records checks, it has a specific meaning. It relays to you that a person has deliberately seized possession of funds or property that did not originally belong to them and that they proceeded to repurpose what they took for malicious means. With that knowledge in hand, you can make better decisions on any future interactions you may have with the person or people in question.