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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Criminal Defense Federal Embezzlement Charges

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 01:15 pm

Defending Against Federal Embezzlement Charges: A Guide for the Accused

Being charged with embezzlement can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. Many people facing these charges feel confused about the legal process and worried about the potential consequences. However, having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference. This guide will provide an overview of federal embezzlement laws, possible defenses, and the role a lawyer can play in achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

What is Embezzlement Under Federal Law?

Embezzlement refers to the act of fraudulently taking money or property that has been entrusted to your care. It differs from regular theft because the original taking of the property was legal – you had permission to possess it through your job or position of trust. However, you breached that trust by misappropriating the property for your own benefit[1].

  • 18 U.S.C. § 641 – Covers embezzlement of U.S. government money or property. This includes any money, property, record, voucher or thing of value of the United States or any department or agency thereof[1].
  • 18 U.S.C. § 666 – Covers embezzlement from programs receiving federal funds. The organization must receive over $10,000 in federal assistance within a 1-year period[1].

The essential elements the prosecution must prove are:

  • You were entrusted with money or property through your job or position.
  • You fraudulently appropriated the money/property for your own use or benefit.
  • The money/property belonged to the U.S. government or an organization receiving federal funds.
  • You acted knowingly and willfully with intent to deprive the owner[2].

How Serious are the Potential Penalties?

The penalties for federal embezzlement depend on the value of the money or property stolen:

  • Less than $1,000 – Up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine up to $100,000.
  • $1,000 or more – Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000[1].

Fines can be set at up to twice the amount embezzled. For large sums from federal institutions, penalties can be up to 30 years and $1 million fines[1]. Restitution is also typically ordered.

The good news is there are various defenses that an experienced attorney can use to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Some potential defenses include:

Lack of Criminal Intent

Since embezzlement requires intent to deprive the owner, proving you did not have this intent could defeat the charges. For example, if it was a misunderstanding about your authority to use funds or property[3].


This applies when you were induced by government agents to commit a crime you otherwise would not have. Your attorney can argue you lacked criminal intent[4].


If you can show you were forced to embezzle under threat of harm, this can negate criminal liability[4].

Good Faith

If you had a reasonable, good faith belief that your actions were lawful, this can defeat criminal intent[4].


If you can show you lacked mental capacity to form criminal intent due to intoxication, mental illness, etc., this can defeat charges[4].

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