Felony embezzlement is a criminal charge referring to the misappropriation of at least a certain amount of funds from one party to another. Commonly referred to as a white-collar crime because it normally happens in office settings, its severity is classified based on the value of the items stolen. Punishment ranges from repayment of the funds to several years in prison. There is a difference between embezzlement and larceny.
Embezzlement, by definition, refers to fraudulently concealing the transfer of funds from one unsuspecting party to another party that has knowledge of the transfer. The actual transfer is performed legally and not stolen explicitly, as it would be in a bank robbery, for example. The key is that in embezzlement, the party that originally had the funds is unaware, or has not given approval, of this transfer.
One commonality between felony cases is that most take place in office environments. One example would be an attorney appropriating money to himself from a client's trust fund. Financial advisors have been convicted of embezzling fortunes from clients by directing funds from investments into their own bank accounts.
Whether a case of embezzlement qualifies as a felony is determined by the value of the funds stolen from the owner. Using this logic, law enforcement officials break this crime down into different tiers of severity. Different jurisdictions can have different monetary values for each classification of embezzlement, but they generally follow a similar pattern. One example would be in the state of Wisconsin in the United States, where any embezzlement of less than $2,500 US Dollars (USD) is a misdemeanor, embezzlement of $2,500 to $5,000 USD is a Class I felony, embezzlement of $5,000 to $10,000 USD is a Class H felony, and embezzlement of more than $10,000 USD is a Class G felony.
Penalties for these crimes differ between jurisdictions, but they usually involve either a fine, jail time, or both. In the United States, for example, misdemeanor embezzlement usually earns a fine and possibly probation. Felony embezzlement, on the other hand, can lead to a very large fine and a prison sentence. The severity of the punishment depends on the amount of money embezzled and any previous criminal record of the accused.
An embezzlement charge often is confused with larceny, but these two crimes are different. Larceny refers to taking away personal property from an owner with the intent to deprive the owner of those possessions permanently. The difference between embezzlement and larceny is that embezzling does not deal with physical property.