Embezzlement is a kind of property theft. It occurs when a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.
Embezzlement can occur in a variety of circumstances. For example, a bank teller has legal access to client money, and is trusted to handle but not take that money. Officers and employees of companies can also embezzle funds belonging to the company, as can family members caring for a relative, professionals like lawyers or board members who handle client or investor money, or anyone in a position of trust with regard to someone else’s money or property.
For more information about embezzlement, see Embezzlement: Penalties and Sentences.
How is Embezzlement Punished in Missouri?
In Missouri, embezzlement is punished according to the value of the money or property stolen. (Missouri Ann. Stat. § 570.030.)
- Less than $500. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
- $500 or more, but less than $25,000. This group also includes property that is: worth less than $500, when the defendant embezzled it with the intent to use the property to make methamphetamine or amphetamine drugs; a motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft; a will or unrecorded deed affecting real property; a credit card or letter of credit; any firearm or explosive weapon; a United States flag or flagstaff; any original copy of an act, bill, or resolution introduced before the Missouri legislature; any court record; a voter registration list or book; livestock animals; live fish raised for commercial sale worth $75 or more; captive wildlife; or any document of historical significance worth $500 or more. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, or up to double the value of the money or property embezzled (not to exceed $20,000); and up to seven years in prison.
- $25,000 or more. Also includes any amount of anhydrous ammonia or liquid nitrogen. Penalties include a fine of up to double the value of the money or property embezzled (not to exceed $20,000); and at least five (and up to up to 15) years in prison. However, if the embezzlement involved anhydrous ammonia or liquid nitrogen, and the defendant appropriated a truck, tank, or other transportation vehicle to embezzle these substances, the defendant will face an increased prison sentence of between 15 and 30 years.
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a property theft or embezzlement-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of property theft charges are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how strong the case against you appears to be, and how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. An experienced lawyer can also advise you as to possible alternatives to criminal punishment, such as paying back the money involved, along with court fees and other costs, or some other alternative that your judge might consider.