Embezzlement in North Carolina

White Collar Crimes: Embezzlement Punishment in North Carolina

What are White Collar Crimes?

White Collar Crimes are financially motivated and non-violent in nature, these crimes are usually committed by someone inside the business or a government professional. Embezzlement, also known as financial fraud, is a type of White Collar Crime. Embezzlement is the unlawful and intentional taking a person’s, business’s, or entity’s property or money by someone who was entrusted with managing or handling it (the person has lawful access to the money), and the trust violated when the property or money is taken for personal gain. It is a crime punishable as either a Class C, Class F, or Class H felony, depending on the details of the crime.

How are Felonies Punished in North Carolina?

Felony crimes in North Carolina are categorized and punished by their class. These classes include: A (the most severe), B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I (the least severe). For each class of felony the court can impose a range of punishment consisting of either one or a combination of “Community Time”, “Intermediate Time”, and “Active Time”. A Class C felony is punishable by a minimum of 58 months of active time only, this means time spent in jail or prison.  A Class F felony is punishable by a minimum of 13 months of intermediate time, active time, or a combination of the two. A Class H felony is punishable by a minimum of 5 months of community time, intermediate time, active time, or a combination of the three.

What Classifies an Embezzlement Charge?

Embezzlement charges are judged based on the amount of money or property stolen and the relationship that the defendant (the person who is accused of stealing the property/money) has with the victim (the person who the property/money was taken from). For a crime to be considered embezzlement there are several key facts that must be present:

  • A person must be aware that they are committing a crime by stealing the property/money.
  • The person accused cannot believe the money or property is theirs – they must know the money or property is being taken from someone else.
  • The taking of money or property must be intentional. Taking the money or property with intent to return it is not considered embezzlement.
  • A person must have been entrusted with the money or property, this means they were given legal access to the money or property they are stealing.

Are there different kinds of embezzlement?

Yes, embezzlement crimes have several different categories with varying punishments. However, all embezzlement over with a value of $100,00 or more if considered a Class C felony.

  1. Embezzlement of property received by virtue of office or employment (Class H Felony)
  2. Embezzlement of state property by public officers and employees (Class F Felony)- Embezzlement by any officer, agent, or employee of the state.
  3. Embezzlement of funds by public officers and trustees (Class F Felony)- Embezzlement by any clerk of the court, sheriff, treasurer, register of deeds, or other public officer.
  4. Embezzlement by treasurers of charitable and religious organizations (Class H Felony)- Embezzlement by treasurers or other financial officer of any religious institution, society, or congregation.
  5. Embezzlement by officers of railroad companies (Class H Felony)- Embezzlement by any president, secretary, treasurer, director, engineer, agent, or other officer of any railroad company.
  6. Appropriation of partnership funds by partner to personal use (Class H Felony)- Any amount of money taken without the knowledge and consent of co-partner.
  7. Embezzlement by surviving partner (Class H Felony)- Conversion of any property, money or effects from a deceased party that is taken for their own use.
  8. Embezzlement of taxes by officers (Class F Felony)- The use of state, county, school, city, or town taxes for their own use.


Examples of Embezzlement

If a grocery store clerk stole cash from the register, would it be considered embezzlement?

No, generally, a store clerk (which differs from a store manager) does not have access and is not entrusted with the finances of the company, therefore it would not be considered embezzlement. However, the clerk could be charged with larceny instead. Larceny is defined as the taking of someone else’s property with intent of permanently depriving that person of the property.

If a business manager steals money from their employer’s personal and business accounts, would it be considered embezzlement?

Yes, the business manager had access and was entrusted with the company’s finances. They intentionally stole money, that they knew did not belong to them, to use for their own personal gain. The most significant difference is that the grocery store clerk was not entrusted with the company’s finances, whereas the business manager was.

Remember, the main difference between embezzlement and larceny is that, to be charged with embezzlement, the person must have been entrusted with the property that they converted.