Many people are shocked when arrive at work like any other day, only to find themselves facing an employee theft or embezzlement charge. When funds or property goes missing, employers tend to blame the person with access. However, lost money due to an honest mistake does not make you guilty of theft.
Employee theft charges are taken seriously in Pennsylvania. If your employer has accused you of theft, you should contact Chester County defense lawyer Michael Skinner immediately. You could be facing years in prison and irreversible damage to your professional reputation.
It may be helpful to explain the difference between employee theft and embezzlement.
Embezzlement is charged in situations where property is entrusted to a particular employee as part of their job. The property could include things like equipment or tools, but most embezzlement cases involve company funds.
For example, if you were responsible for managing the petty cash and took money from the cash box, that would be considered embezzlement. It would be considered “theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received” under Pennsylvania law:
A person who obtains property upon agreement, or subject to a known legal obligation, to make specified payments or other disposition, whether from such property or its proceeds or from his own property to be reserved in equivalent amount, is guilty of theft if he intentionally deals with the property obtained as his own and fails to make the required payment or disposition.
Keep in mind that embezzlement requires that the property is obtained by agreement or subject to a legal obligation. This includes people in a position of trust such as accountants, business managers, or anyone with a fiduciary responsibility to their employer.
Employee theft occurs whenever an employee takes property from their employer with the intent of keeping it. The employee does not need to be in a position of trust. They simply needed access to the property, regardless of whether or not it was with their employer’s position.
Using the previous example, breaking into the petty cash box and taking the money would constitute employee theft if your employer did not give you permission to access the box or otherwise entrust you with petty cash. Employee theft is treated no differently than ordinary theft in Pennsylvania.
Whether it’s employee theft or embezzlement, the critical element is that you took the property with the intention of stealing from your employer. Therefore, many accusations of employee theft can arise from simple accounting mistakes.
Some common accounting mistakes that can result in theft charges include:
Businesses that are poorly managed or disorganized are very susceptible to losing money or other property. Rather than sorting out their own internal problems, it becomes easier to accuse one of their employees of theft.
The consequences of a theft conviction in Pennsylvania are very serious, and vary according to the value of the property stolen:
Any kind of theft or embezzlement charge can carry serious consequences – you could be facing years in prison and thousands in fines. In addition, it will be nearly impossible to rebuild your career with an employee theft conviction on you record.