Embezzlement vs Extortion Charges & Laws

Embezzlement and extortion are both crimes where people take from others and intend to keep those items for their own uses. Each crime will be defined and explained before they are compared.

What is Embezzlement

This crime involves three necessary elements in order for charges to be filed against a person. If any of the three elements do not apply, then this would not be the correct charge. The three components are:

1. The accused must be in a position of trust and confidence and given possession of property by the owner.
2. That person must have then moved the property, hid the property, or converted it somehow for their own personal use
3. They must have intended to permanently take away ownership of the property from the rightful owner

In these cases, the perpetrator acts on his own quietly and is in the process of stealing from the group he is trusted by without anyone realizing it. The fact that these crimes can go on unrecognized for long periods of time is how some people are able to conglomerate very large amounts of money or goods over a period of years.

Embezzlement Extortion

This crime is made up of a person unlawfully obtaining money or goods through coercion. The main elements have to do with the threat more than the changing of hands of any money or property. If a person makes a threat requiring a person to take a certain action in order to prevent them having to endure an unpleasant action in the future, it is extortion.

In the case of these two crimes, the victim of embezzlement is often unaware that the crime is taking place until it is discovered. In extortion, the victim is the one that is required to give the money or goods to the person doing the threatening, so they are aware of the crime from the beginning.

Both of these crimes can go on over extended time periods. The embezzlement usually goes on because the criminal realizes as long as they have not been caught they can continue to make more money. With the extortion, once they threaten a victim and get them to hand over money or goods, they are often able to keep up that threatening and intimidation over time, as they see the money continuing to pile up.

Embezzlement Examples

Embezzlement is done by employees or agents of a company or entity, so normally this crime is done by employees. It can be someone working at the cash register of a store. They may have devised a way that they can pocket money by skipping the register for some sales. It may be a bartender that pours drinks, collects money, and does not put it into the cash register. On a larger scale, these crimes can occur by executives at large corporations and over time can involve thousands and even multi-millions of dollars.

The most prominent examples of extortion are the organized crime rings that run around in the bigger cities. The crime ring goes to the individual shop owners in an area and demand a portion of the income they make in their business. The way that they convince these owners to hand over the money is what constitutes extortion. The people in the crime ring threaten that they will bring unpleasant consequences to the owner that does not pay them. This can be violence, but can also be other threatening actions, like destroying their shop, spreading false rumors about the owners or about their business, or any other threat they can be intimidated by.

Embezzlement Punishment

In the cases of both embezzlement and extortion, these crimes are more typically  federal charges that are tried in a federal court. The circumstances of these situations tend to happen more in corporations, banks, investment companies, and adding increased chances of violence make them federal, which also makes them more often than not felonies. These tend to involve interstate commerce, securities and exchanges, and other federal agencies that provide oversight.

When it comes to state charges, though, the state of Massachusetts provides their own sentencing based on the values involved. The use of violence is an important distinction on charges at the state level. By using weapons and/or violence, all sentences and fines are much higher.

Both see prison sentences of up to twenty years, depending on the details of their particular case. The larger the value of the crime involved, the more people victimized, and the more incidents on the accused person’s prison record make it more likely that they will see sentences towards the upper range.

In addition to jail time, there are also financial penalties with these crimes. In both cases, there will be fines associated with the criminal activity, but also restitution. Since most often committed against companies, they often need to be repaid for what was taken. These two financial costs can lead to staggering burdens, based on the scale of the crime the accused was part of.

Embezzlement Defenses

The defenses for these two crimes do have differences. In the case of embezzlement there is often a paper trail that ends up leading to the perpetrator of the crime. This makes it very difficult to fight the charges. The computerized nature of most accounting systems used in business provides much of that evidence.

When it comes to extortion, the evidence is usually very different. Unless there is some sort of written threat, like a letter or email, it is only some form of recorded documentation by either audio or video that would provide evidence of the threats being made.

Besides the defenses individual to each charge, there are also parts that would be similar. Both include intent as requirements, and that can be challenged. With the serious nature of these violations, it is often very helpful to consider plea bargaining, which can lead to reduced sentences and reduced charges.

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