Embezzlement is one of the more common kinds of white-collar criminal offenses. Like theft, embezzlement is an umbrella term that can apply to many kinds of worker activities. These actions involve an employee misusing their position for personal financial gain.
California considers any misappropriation or theft of an employer’s resources to potentially be embezzlement. While some employee behaviors are clearly acts of embezzlement, like pocketing money from the petty cash drawer at the office, there are plenty of questionable behaviors that workers may not realize could constitute embezzlement, such as the three below.
Creative but inappropriate billing practices
Those who work in sales, purchasing or customer-facing positions may be in a position to manipulate company financial records for their own benefit. For example, a worker might overcharge a customer but then create an internal invoice that shows a lower purchase amount so that they can retain the balance. They may also pretend to issue a payment to a vendor or alter and then cash customer checks themselves.
Taking physical items from their place of employment
Stealing money is an obvious form of embezzlement, but taking office supplies, electronics or merchandise from an employer seems like a gray area to some people. For example, a worker could take retail items because they know the company writes off a certain amount of loss as “shrink.” They might take company supplies or even misuse company infrastructure for personal purposes.
Someone might take medicine from the pharmacy where they work, office supplies to start their small business at home or other physical assets from the place where they work. Those forms of theft can constitute embezzlement.
Misusing company card or expense accounts
If you have a company credit card to cover your costs while traveling for work or access to the company’s expense account, you might get creative with what expenses you try to use company funds to pay for or for which you request reimbursement. Using company assets for personal profit or submitting questionable claims for reimbursement can also lead to allegations of embezzlement and serious criminal charges.
Learning about what behaviors could lead to embezzlement charges can help you avoid criminal consequences and the loss of your job.