ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Embezzlement?

Updated on January 28, 2010

Embezzlement is a special kind of theft in which the thief is, at the time of his act, in rightful possession of the money or goods. As with the special crimes of larceny by trick or false pretenses, the crime of embezzlement was created by statute to meet some of the inadequacies of the law covering the crime of larceny, which occurred in England only when a person took personal property from the possession of another.

For example, it was larceny for a servant to take his master's property of which he was in charge. However, it was held in King v. Bazeley (1799) that no crime was committed in the case of a bank teller who kept a bank note handed to him for deposit, because the employee, not the bank, had acquired full possession of the note. To remedy this situation, Parliament responded by making an employee's misappropriation of his employer's goods the crime of embezzlement. Later statutes, both in England and America, extended the crime successively to other persons who at the time were rightfully in possession, such as merchants, factors, brokers, bailees, attorneys, and trustees. Laws also extended the circumstances under which the offender might have acquired possession. Thus, prohibitions that originally covered only persons who had been entrusted with possession by the owner were widened to include persons who came into possession by other means, such as finding the money or goods.

This piecemeal broadening of the law's attack on theft has created not only a group of theft crimes but a wide variety of state embezzlement statutes in the United States. Unfortunately, such sporadic growth has left serious gaps and discrepancies in the law and has increased the hazard of letting off an otherwise guilty person simply because the wrong crime was charged in the indictment. On the other hand, modern statutes and court decisions are becoming less strict. One approach has been to allow different theft crimes to be charged in separate counts of the same indictment, and thus the prosecutor who misses with one count may hit the target with another. Another permits a blanket indictment under a single charge of theft. Some states, including New York, have by statute consolidated the several theft crimes into a single one.

Most crimes require evidence of criminal intent. The intent for embezzlement is the same as that for larceny: permanently to deprive the owner of his property. A separate, though related, crime is embezzlement by a public officer. This resembles ordinary embezzlement except that the offender need not intend to keep the property permanently. Temporary misuse, such as keeping public money in an improper place or diverting it to a temporary personal use, is enough.

Although embezzlement imposes an enormous social and financial burden, its relatively low visibility permits only a few cases to attract broad public attention. Offenders include well-educated, intelligent people in high positions, such as a former president of the New York Stock Exchange, who was sent to prison in 1938 on the charge of misusing securities entrusted to his care. A crime hard to detect and with penalties often softened by restitution, embezzlement results in a small percentage of prosecutions and few convictions.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)