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 Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, embezzlement is punished according to the value or type of the property stolen. (Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 943.20.)
- Money or property worth less than $2,500. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to nine months in jail, or both.
- More than $2,500, but less than $5,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to three and a half years in prison, or both.
- More than $5,000, but less than $10,000. Also includes embezzling a domestic animal; property taken from a destroyed or unoccupied building when the building is in that state because of a physical disaster, riot, or bombing; a firearm; property taken from a disabled adult living in a residential care facility. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to six years in prison, or both.
- More than $10,000. Also includes property stolen from a corpse. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.
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.