In many ways, embezzlement is just a type of theft. It often happens in a business setting. An employee at that business is committing theft against the company itself.
But embezzlement is also different from theft in many ways. Typically, theft just means that someone has taken assets or items that did not belong to them. They have done this intentionally. Embezzlement may have the same end result – in that the employee takes assets or funds that are not theirs – but it is done through misappropriation instead of direct theft.
How is this different?
When you look at how embezzlement is defined, you will see that it applies to an employee who “intentionally misappropriates” those resources or assets.
In other words, the employee was given access to those assets. They were simply supposed to use them in a specific way, but they misappropriated them and used them for personal gain. The access itself wasn’t illegal.
An example of this could be an executive at a company who is given access to the bank accounts that the business uses. They are supposed to make withdrawals to purchase parts and materials for the production line. It is not illegal for them to access these funds, but it is a form of embezzlement if they start transferring a portion of those funds into a personal bank account. They are using the resources they were given in an inappropriate manner.
This is similar to theft, but you can see that there are some very important differences. It’s critical to know exactly how criminal charges are defined when facing them, and those who face these charges also need to understand all of their defense options.