Embezzlement is the classical name for the crime of stealing from your employer. In some states, this is a separate crime, but New Jersey includes this crime within its standard theft offense. However, stories about “embezzlement” are still often reported in the news regarding public officials, high level executives, and others who handle finances within a company. These people are often in a unique position of trust, which could be easily abused to steal money from public funds or employers.
If you were charged with embezzlement in South Jersey, talk to an experienced white collar crimes attorney today. John Zarych of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych has represented clients charged with embezzlement in New Jersey, and may be able to help you, too. Whether you are charged with theft, or with a federal embezzlement offense, our New Jersey embezzlement attorneys may be able to help you avoid the stress and potential punishments of your embezzlement charges.
Embezzlement in New Jersey Law
New Jersey’s laws do not have a separate crime of “embezzlement.” Instead, embezzlement is included under New Jersey’s general theft offenses codified in N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-3, and following. Classically, embezzlement dealt with breaking the trust of your employer by stealing. Rather than simple theft, embezzlement was the crime of keeping something for yourself when you were entrusted with it as part of your job. For instance, pocketing cash instead of putting it in the register, or siphoning off money from customer accounts into your own account.
There are dozens or hundreds of ways to commit the crime of embezzlement. Different schemes and plans may be based on failing to make a required disposition, like intermingling a client’s funds with your own. Others may involve falsifying documents to make it seem like money did not go missing. Still others may simply involve pocketing money and keeping it for yourself.
Depending on how the crime is accomplished, there may be a different section of the crimes code that your crime falls under. The following are each New Jersey theft offenses, with the subsection’s name and an example of an embezzlement crime that fits under that subsection:
This list skips certain sections of the code that do not apply very obviously to the concept of embezzlement. However, there may be situations where other sections of the code apply to your embezzlement accusations.
Penalties for Embezzlement in New Jersey
Since embezzlement is a theft offense, it usually follows the typical rules for punishing other theft offenses. N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-2(b) lays out the penalties for most theft offenses. All of the theft offenses listed above (except shoplifting) follow the same general guidelines for punishment.
Theft Offense Penalties
In general, theft offenses are graded based on the value of what was stolen:
- For less than $200, the crime is a disorderly persons offense.
- For $200-$500 (inclusive), the crime is a fourth degree crime.
- For over $500, but less than $75,000, the crime is a third degree crime.
- For $75,000 or more, the crime is a second degree crime.
In general, these levels of crime carry the following penalties:
- A disorderly persons offense (similar to a “misdemeanor” in other states) carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
- A fourth degree crime carries a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in prison.
- A third degree crime carries a fine of up to $15,000 and 3-5 years in prison.
- A second degree crime is the second highest level of crime in New Jersey and carries a fine of 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
Upgraded Theft Offenses
While these price points give the general breakdown for the level of crime, there are other elements or features of a crime that could increase the level of offense or increase the individual penalties, including:
- Use of extortion (serious threats) increases the crime to a second degree crime.
- If you breach a fiduciary duty and steal $50,000 or more, it is a second degree crime.
- If you breach a fiduciary duty and steal less than $50,000, it is a third degree crime.
- If you use threats short of extortion, it increases to a third degree crime.
- For stealing someone’s state or federal benefits worth less than $75,000, the crime upgrades to a third degree crime.
- For stealing research materials (including samples, specimens, or information), it is automatically a third degree crime.
- Stealing a prescription blank is automatically a third degree crime.
- Stealing anhydrous ammonia to make methamphetamine is a third degree crime.
The factor that might be most important for white collar embezzlement accusations is the “breach of fiduciary duty” element. Any breach of a fiduciary duty, such as mishandling funds, comingling funds, or otherwise diminishing the funds against your duty could increase the theft penalties. If you steal less than $50,000 this way, it is automatically a third degree crime. If you steal $50,000 or more, it is automatically a second degree crime.
If your embezzlement charge was based on the shoplifting statute, the punishments are graded nearly the same. The dollar values break down the same way, so a second degree crime is for theft of over $75,000, and a disorderly persons offense is for theft of less than $200. However, if the shoplifting was part of an “organized retail theft enterprise,” the crime is automatically a second degree crime if the merchandise was worth $1,000 or more, and is a third degree crime if it was worth less than $1,000. For a shoplifting offense, you may also be required to do community service. There is good news though: if the shoplifting offense is a fourth degree crime ($500 or less), the prosecutors may downgrade it to a disorderly persons offense.
Federal Embezzlement Charges
Just because you were charged with the New Jersey crime for embezzlement does not mean the federal government cannot charge you as well. The US government has its own embezzlement and theft laws, found in 18 U.S.C. Chapter 31. Many of these laws deal with specific types of officers (e.g. court officers, US government employees, bank or insurance employees, etc). Since the federal government and State of New Jersey each have their own jurisdiction and power to punish crimes, you can actually be charged and convicted for the same crime of embezzlement by both the New Jersey and US governments. Talk to an attorney about your charges right away.
South Jersey Embezzlement Lawyers
The South Jersey embezzlement attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have decades of experience handling white collar and other crimes. For a free consultation on your charges, talk to one of our attorneys today. Our number is (609) 800-2942.