Embezzlement is a “white collar” crime that is committed when money or property is stolen by someone who was entrusted to hold it – usually someone like an employee or a client. Could you be framed by a co-worker for embezzlement? Or blamed for the disappearance of money or property that you were entrusted to hold? Keep reading, and you’ll learn the details about New York’s embezzlement laws.

Embezzlement is typically a premeditated and methodical crime. Embezzlers usually work diligently to conceal embezzlement, often embezzling only a small percentage of the total of the funds or resources they are entrusted with, in order to minimize their risk of detection. When they’re successful, embezzlers may operate for a number of years without being detected.

If you take money or property without the owner’s permission, and you mean to keep that money or property, it’s theft. But when you already have temporary possession of someone’s money or property because you have been asked to watch or hold it, and you then decide to steal that money or property, it’s embezzlement. In New York, theft and embezzlement are both “larceny” and are prosecuted under the state’s larceny statutes.


When the target of embezzlement is a bank or any other institution or agency controlled or owned by the federal government, embezzlement is a federal crime. Embezzlement in most cases is considered a white-collar crime. White collar criminals often use accounting methods and computers, and their targets are often banks or other financial institutions, although individuals may also be their victims.

In many cases, an embezzler will falsify or manipulate a victim’s financial records to hide some of the assets or to acquire a portion of those assets for himself or herself. An accountant, for example, could make it look as if a client’s books are balanced while surreptitiously skimming a percentage of the client’s assets “off the top.”

So that there is no mistake or misunderstanding, state law in New York spells out this definition of “property”: it is “any money, personal property, real property, computer data, computer program, thing in action, evidence of debt or contract, or any article, substance or thing of value, including any gas, steam, water or electricity, which is provided for a charge or compensation.”


What are the potential penalties for someone convicted of embezzlement in the state New York? Petit larceny (petty larceny) is the theft or embezzlement of property valued at less than $1,000. It’s a misdemeanor, and a convicted offender faces up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000.

Grand theft is a felony in this state, with the following penalties:

The theft or embezzlement of property valued at more than $1,000 is fourth-degree larceny, a Class E felony. A convicted offender faces up to four years in state prison.

The theft or embezzlement of property valued at more than $3,000 is third-degree larceny, a Class D felony. A convicted offender faces up to seven years in state prison.

The theft or embezzlement of property valued at more than $50,000 is second-degree larceny, a Class C felony. A convicted offender faces up to fifteen years in state prison.

The theft or embezzlement of property valued at more than $1 million is first-degree larceny, a Class B felony. A convicted offender faces up to twenty-five years in prison.

The mandatory minimum prison term for a grand larceny conviction in the state of New York is one year. A convicted embezzler in this state may also be sentenced to pay a fine that is typically twice the value of the stolen or embezzled property.


At the federal level, there is no specific “embezzlement” law, so embezzlement crimes are prosecuted as fraud – mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, or bank fraud. Those crimes are punishable upon conviction by up to twenty years in a federal prison and by a fine of as much as $250,000.

Anyone who is arrested and charged with embezzlement in New York – whether the crime is charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor, or at either the state or federal level – should seek legal help at once from an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney who routinely represents defendants charged with white collar crimes in this state.

People who deal with large sums of money on a daily basis – and who deal with the record-keeping that goes with handling such sums – make plenty of mistakes. It does not mean that they are criminals. But for prosecutors, it means that embezzlement is often a difficult crime to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt.”


In some embezzlement cases, a defendant may have been framed by a colleague. In cases where money or property has simply gone missing, sometimes a person is accused merely because he or she is the most convenient suspect. To convict a suspect of embezzlement, a prosecutor usually must prove that:

– A fiduciary relationship existed between the defendant and the victim.
– The defendant used that relationship to gain access to money or property.
– The defendant intentionally took the money or property without the owner’s permission.


With the countless complexities that may arise in an embezzlement case, a defendant in New York must be represented by an aggressive, experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney who will examine the details and circumstances of the case, protect the defendant’s rights, develop an effective defense strategy, and fight on a defendant’s behalf for the best possible result.

If an embezzlement prosecution goes to trial, a good criminal defense lawyer can often cast “reasonable doubt” on the prosecution’s evidence. Even a simple clerical error can sometimes look like embezzlement. There are usually a number of ways for a skilled criminal defense attorney to challenge a prosecutor’s embezzlement case.

However, if the evidence of a defendant’s embezzlement is overwhelming and conclusive, that defendant’s attorney may try to have the embezzlement charge reduced, and he or she will also argue for reduced or alternative sentencing. In any embezzlement case, a good defense lawyer will use every appropriate legal tool to bring the matter to its best possible conclusion.