Embezzlement is a crime that is prosecuted under both federal and state criminal law. This charge involves an individual having lawful access to the property, who commits an unlawful act against the property such as theft, misappropriation or intentional mismanagement. Frequently, embezzlement cases involve someone abusing their position of trust to misappropriate the funds.

Each state has its own criminal embezzlement statutes. For example, under New York criminal law, embezzlement is not separate criminal charge. Rather, embezzlement is a type of unlawful property taking that applies to Petit Larceny as well as all the Grand Larceny charges. New York’s many different larceny theories are explained in New York Penal Law Section 155.05.

Federal Embezzlement charges, on the other hand, are not state-specific and instead have a nation-wide application. Federal Embezzlement charges are codified in Chapter 31 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which contains Embezzlement and Theft Offenses.

Federal Embezzlement Charges or State Embezzlement Charges?

Generally, embezzlement charges are prosecuted under each state’s individual law. However, these charges are prosecuted under federal law in some cases. Federal embezzlement charges will be brought in situations involving:

  • Theft from the Federal Government, such as overtime theft by a federal employee;
  • Theft of property paid for by the Federal Government, i.e. under a federal contract.

Examples of Federal Embezzlement Charges

Under Chapter 31 of Title 18, the following are federal embezzlement charges:

  • Public money, property, or records,
  • Tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes,
  • Accounting generally for public money,
  • Receiving unauthorized deposit of public money,
  • Court officers.
  • Custodians misusing public funds,
  • Depositaries failing to safeguard deposits,
  • Disbursing officer,
  • Theft by a bank examiner,
  • Embezzlement by employees of a bank, lending, credit, or insurance institution,
  • Property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies,
  • Solicitation or use of gifts,
  • Embezzlement from an employee benefit plan,
  • Property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies,
  • Programs receiving federal funds,
  • Theft of livestock,
  • Theft of major artwork, AND
  • Embezzlement in connection with health care.

These federal embezzlement charges are explained in greater detail below.

Public Money, Property, or Records

The federal embezzlement charge involving Public Money, Property or Records is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 641. Under this charge, it is a crime to:

  • Embezzle, steal, or otherwise convey or sell to another any record, voucher, money, or anything of value of the United States, its Department or agency, or any property being made under contract for the United States, OR
  • Receive, conceal or retain the same with intent to convert it for own use of gain with knowledge that it has been embezzled, stolen or converted.

Sentencing and Penalties for Federal Embezzlement of Public Money, Property or Records

This federal embezzlement charge is punishable by a fine, imprisonment up to 10 years or both a fine and imprisonment. However, if the value of the property embezzled does not exceed $1,000, then maximum imprisonment is 1 year.

Tools and Materials for Counterfeiting Purposes

The federal embezzlement charge titled Tools and Materials for Counterfeiting Purposes is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 642. An individual is guilty of this embezzlement charge when:

  • Without authority from the United States,
  • S/he embezzles, takes, or otherwise carries away from any building, room, office, value, safe,
  • Any tool or thing, paper, parchment or any other material, used for stamping or printing,
  • Any kind of bond, bill, note, certificate, coupon, postage, stamp, revenue stamp, currency note, or other paper or instrument issued, prepared or put in circulation by the United States.

Sentencing and Penalties for Tools and Materials for Counterfeiting Purposes

This charge is punishable by imprisonment by up to 10 years, or a fine of $250,000 or twice the criminal proceeds, or both fined and imprisonment.

Accounting generally for public money

Another federal embezzlement charge is called Accounting Generally for Public Money and it is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 643. This charge prohibits officers, employees or agents of the United States or any of its agencies or departments from keeping public money that they have erroneously received. Importantly, this charge does not apply to money a federal employee is authorized to retain, such as salary, pay, or fringe benefits.

Sentencing and Penalties for Accounting Generally For Public Money

This Federal embezzlement charge is punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years, or a fine up to $500,000 or the sum equal to the amount embezzled, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000, this charge is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, as well as a fine up to $500,000 or the sum equal to the amount embezzled, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Embezzlement by a Banker Receiving Unauthorized Deposit of Public Money

Banker Receiving Unauthorized Deposit of Public Money is a federal embezzlement charge that is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 644. This charge has the following elements:

  1. Whoever, not being an authorized depositary of public moneys,
  2. Knowingly receives from any disbursing officer, or collector of internal revenue, or other agent of the United States,
  3. Any public money on deposit, or by way of loan or accommodation, OR
  4. Uses, transfers, converts, appropriates, or applies any portion of the public money for any purpose not prescribed by law.

Sentencing and Penalties for Embezzlement by a Banker Receiving Unauthorized Deposit of Public Money

This embezzlement charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or the amount embezzled, whichever one is greater, or both a fine and imprisonment. However, if the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000, the individual cannot be fined more than $1,000 or imprisoned for more than 1 year or both.

Embezzlement by Court Officers

There are two federal embezzlement charges that apply to federal court officers, clerks, and U.S. Marshalls. These two charges are:

  • Embezzlement by Court Officers (18 U.S.C. Section 645), AND
  • Failure to Deposit Money Belonging to the Court (18 U.S.C. Section 646).

These charges are explained in greater detail below.

18 U.S. Code § 645 – Court Officers Generally

Under 18 U.S. Code Section 645, this federal crime has the following elements:

  • Being a United States marshal, clerk, receiver, referee, trustee, or other officer of a United States court, or any deputy, assistant, or employee of any such officer,
  • Unlawfully retaining or converting any money coming into his hands by virtue of his official position or employment.

18 U.S. Code § 646 – Court Officers Depositing Registry Moneys

Under 18 U.S.C. Section 646, it is unlawful for a clerk or another officer of a court in the United States to fail to promptly deposit money into the registry of the court, or retain the money for own use.

Penalties and Sentencing for 18 U.S. Code § 645 and § 646

Both of these federal embezzlement charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine equal to the value of the money taken, or up to $500,000, whichever is greater, or a fine and imprisonment.

Importantly, if the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000, these charge are punishable by up to 1 year in prison, a fine equal to the sum of the money taken or $100,000, whichever is greater, or both a fine and a term of imprisonment.

Custodians Misusing Public Funds

Another federal embezzlement charge is called Custodians Misusing Public Funds, which is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 648. Under this charge, it is embezzlement to use, loan, convert or deposit any public money entrusted to the individual for safekeeping.

Sentencing and Penalties for Custodians Misusing Public Funds

This federal embezzlement charge is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine equal to the amount of money embezzled or $500,000, whichever is greater or both a fine and a term of imprisonment. However, if the amount embezzled does not exceed $1,000, then the fine can’t exceed $100,000 and the maximum term of imprisonment is 1 year.

Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits

Under 18 U.S. Code § 649, a person is guilty of federal embezzlement when having money of the United States in his possession or under his custody or control, s/he fails to deposit the money with the Treasurer or some public depository, when required to do so.

Sentencing and Penalties for Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits

The crime of Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits is punishable by up to 10 years, a fine equal to the amount embezzled, or a fine up to $500,00, whichever is greater.

If the amount embezzled is $1,000 or less, this charge is punishable by up to 1 year in prison, a fine equal to the amount of money embezzled or a fine of up to $100,000, whichever is greater, or both a fine and a term of imprisonment.

Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits

Another embezzlement charge related to depositories is called Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits and it is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 650. An individual is guilty of this charge, when being a treasurer of the United States or any public depository, s/he fails to keep safely all money deposited.

Sentencing and Penalties for Depositaries Failing to Safeguard Deposits

This federal embezzlement charge is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, or a fine equal to the amount of money embezzled or $500,000, or both a term of imprisonment and a fine. In the event the amount embezzled is less than $1,000, then this charge is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 1 year, a fine equal to the amount of money embezzled or $100,000 or both a fine and a term of imprisonment.

Embezzlement by Disbursing Officer

There are two related embezzlement charges that involve disbursing officers. They are:

  • 18 U.S. Code § 651 – Disbursing Officer Falsely Certifying Full Payment, AND
  • 18 U.S. Code § 652 – Disbursing Officer Paying Lesser in Lieu of Lawful Amount.

These federal embezzlement crimes involve an officer charged with disbursement of public money who either:

  • Accepts, receives or transmits any receipt or voucher from the creditor without paying the full amount, (18 U.S. Code § 651), OR
  • Pays a clerk, agent, employee with payment of any appropriation by Congress, a sum less than provided by law and requires such employee to sign a receipt for amount greater than what was paid.

Sentencing and Penalties for Embezzlement by Disbursement Officer Charges

Violations of either 18 U.S. Code § 651 or 18 U.S. Code § 652 are punishable by:

  • Imprisonment of up to 2 years.
  • Fine double the amount withheld, or $500,000 whichever is greater, OR
  • Both a fine and a term of imprisonment.
  • If the amount withheld does not exceed $1,000, the term of imprisonment is up to one year, and the fine is up to $100,000.

Theft by a Bank Examiner

Another federal embezzlement charge is Theft by a Bank Examiner, which is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 655. Under this statute, it is a crime for a bank examiner to steal, unlawfully take or unlawfully conceal any money, note, draft, bond or anything else of value in possession of an FDIC-insured banking institution.

Sentencing and Penalties for Theft by a Bank Examiner

This charge is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine up to $500,000 or both a term of imprisonment and a fine. However, if the amount taken or concealed does not exceed $1,000, then the maximum term of imprisonment is one year, and a fine is the greater of the amount taken or $100,000 or both a fine and a term of imprisonment. Additionally, a conviction for this federal embezzlement charge will result in collateral consequences – the individual will be disqualified from holding office as a national bank examiner or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation examiner.

Embezzlement by Employees of a Bank, Lending, Credit, or Insurance Institution

Section 656 of Title 18 of United States Code contains a federal embezzlement charge called Theft, Embezzlement, or Misapplication by a Bank Officer Or Employee. This charge has the following elements:

  • Being an officer, director, agent or employee of, or connected in any capacity with any Federal Reserve bank, member bank, national bank, inured bank, or receiver, agent, employee of same, AND
  • Embezzling, abstracting, or willfully misapplying any of the moneys, funds or credits of such bank, branch, agency, or organization or holding company or any moneys, funds, assets or securities in the custody or care of such bank,

Sentencing and Penalties for Embezzlement by Employees of a Bank, Lending, Credit or Insurance Institution

This federal embezzlement charge is punishable by a fine up to $1,000,000 and imprisonment up to 30 years, or both a fine and imprisonment. However, if the amount embezzled is under $1,000, this charge is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine up to $100,000, or both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

Embezzlement From an Employee Benefit Plan

Theft from employee benefit plans is also prosecuted by federal, rather than state prosecutors. This charge is called Embezzlement From An Employee Benefit Plan and is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 664. It prohibits embezzlement, theft, or conversion for own use any of the moneys, funds, securities, property, or any other assets of an employee welfare or pension benefit plan.

Sentencing and Penalties for Embezzlement from an Employee Benefit Plan

This charge is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine up to $500,000 or both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

Embezzlement in Connection with Health Care

Misappropriation of assets of a healthcare benefit program is also prosecuted by the federal government, rather than local state prosecutors. This charge is called Embezzlement in Connection with Healthcare and is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 669, which is titled Theft or Embezzlement in Connection with Healthcare. This charge makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully steal, or convert to use by person other than a rightful owner, any moneys, funds, securities or other assets of a healthcare benefit program.

Sentencing and Penalties for Theft or Embezzlement in Connection With Health Care

This charge is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine up to $500,000 or both a term of imprisonment and a fine. If the value of the property doe not exceed $100, then the maximum term of imprisonment is 1 year and the maximum fine is $100,000.

Contact Top Rated Federal Embezzlement Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or your your loved one is charged with Federal Embezzlement charges, or suspect you are under investigation, you need experienced federal criminal defense counsel. These cases are very document intensive and require a lot of time and attention from your attorney. We know, because we have defended Federal Embezzlement charges before. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.