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Unfortunately, when taking care of another's financial accounts in Fairfax, despite one's best efforts, innocent mistakes can be made. After all, "to err is human." Unfortunately, sometimes a person in such situations is accused of embezzlement, a very serious white collar crime.

In general, embezzlement occurs when a person's assets are stolen by an individual to whom the assets have been entrusted. Oftentimes, this happens within the course of a person's employment. For example, a bank teller does legally possess funds in the course of their lawful job duties, or employees might be given a company laptop to use. Then, embezzlement occurs when a person tries to keep monetary assets hidden by manipulating the books. The person does lawfully possess the assets, but then use those assets for themselves.

Embezzlement can take many forms. For example, sometimes a large amount of assets go missing in one go. Other times, small amounts of assets go missing over the course of weeks, months or even years. Some acts that point towards embezzlement are making false accounting records, issuing payroll checks to fake workers that are not real, fraudulently billing clients or engaging in a "Ponzi" scheme.

No matter what it looks like from the outside, there are four elements of embezzlement that must be met before one can be convicted of that crime. First of all, a fiduciary relationship must exist. Second, the accused must have used their position in the fiduciary relationship to gain hold of the assets at issue. Third, the accused must take on ownership of the assets or must have passed the assets on to another. Finally, the accused must have intended to embezzle the assets.

If any of these elements are not met, then a person cannot be convicted of embezzlement. Nevertheless, being accused of embezzlement or any white collar crime is a serious situation. Not only could a conviction result in a long prison sentence, but even if a person is ultimately found "not guilty," being accused of embezzlement can harm their personal and professional reputation. Therefore, those accused of embezzlement should make sure to counter such charges, with the help of a criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Embezzlement," Accessed April 17, 2017

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