DEFINITION of 'Embezzlement'

A form of white-collar crime where a person misappropriates the assets entrusted to him or her. In this type of fraud the assets are attained lawfully and the embezzler has the right to possess them, but the assets are then used for unintended purposes. Embezzlement is a breach of the fiduciary responsibilities placed upon a person.

BREAKING DOWN 'Embezzlement'

The nature of embezzlement can be both small and large. Embezzling funds can be as minor as a store clerk pocketing a few bucks from a cash register; however, on a grander scale, embezzlement also occurs when the executives of large companies falsely expense millions of dollars, transferring the funds into personal accounts. Depending on the scale of the crime, embezzlement may be punishable by large fines and time in jail.

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