New Jersey Embezzlement Laws

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Embezzlement is a kind of property theft. It occurs when someone who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property steals all or part of that money or property for the taker'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 New Jersey?

In New Jersey, embezzlement is punished according to the value or type of property stolen. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:20-2.)

  • Money or property worth $75,000 or more. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution of the amount embezzled to the victim; a fine of up to $150,000, or up to double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); and between five and ten years in prison.
  • $500 or more, but less than $75,000. This category also includes property that is a firearm, motor vehicle, boat, horse, domestic companion animal, or airplane (regardless of value); a controlled or dangerous substance when the amount involved is either worth less than $75,000, or weighs one kilogram or less; any amount of anhydrous ammonia when the  defendant intended to use it to manufacture methamphetamine; or a public record.  Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution; a fine of up to $15,000, or up to double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); and between three and five years in prison.
  • $200 or more, but not more than $500. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution; a fine of up to $10,000, or up to double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); and up to 18 months in prison.
  • Less than $200. Penalties include restitution; a fine of up to $1,000, or double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); or both.

Embezzling  State or Federal Health Care Benefits

A defendant convicted of embezzling another person’s state or federal health care benefits will face penalties according to the value of the embezzled benefits. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:20-2(b)(1)(d)&(b)(2)(h).)

  • Benefits worth $75,000 or more. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution of the amount embezzled to the victim; a fine of up to $150,000, or up to double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); and between five and ten years in prison.
  • Benefits worth less than $75,000. Penalties include any or all of the following: restitution; a fine of up to $15,000, or up to double the amount embezzled (whichever is more); and between three and five years in prison.

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.

by: , Contributing Author

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