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Embezzlement issues, part II: What to do if you're accused of embezzling money

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In the last post, we talked about embezzlement from the point of view of the employer and discussed how early decisions after theft is discovered are critical to guide the ultimate outcomes. In this post, we'll approach embezzlement from the other side: what do you do if you are accused of embezzling from your employer? 

It is possible that you'll be called into a meeting with the CEO, head of human resources, corporate attorney, one of the above or all three (and possibly a direct supervisor). Many times you'll have some sense of what's coming: a flurry of emails asking direct and pointed questions about a financial transaction or a specific encounter with a supervisor about documentation for specific sale or transfer of company funds. In those instances, you must treat the ultimate confrontation with the utmost care. In these kinds of meetings the decision makers have almost always already decided that you've done something wrong; you won't really be able to change their minds. Don't try to "talk your way out of it" or apologize your way to freedom. In many cases simply saying "I'm sorry" can be an admission that you did something wrong, even if you didn't mean it that way.

Sometimes, the accusations comes to you more or less out of the blue. If that has happened to you, then once you get free from the confrontation meeting, try to write down absolutely everything you can remember about the meeting. Record who was there and what was said and what you said in response to their questions. Use email to ask for any written documentation of the claims of theft and ask how the suspicious transaction was uncovered. If you've been fired, insist on a written notice of termination and see if that notice helps you understand what the company says that you did.

In either instance, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer ASAP. Most people think they need a criminal defense attorney only if they've done something wrong. In actually, the direct opposite is true: innocent people who are wrongfully accused need vigorous representation far more. A criminal defense attorney can help you handle whatever consequences the company wants to give you whether it's criminal investigation or even a civil lawsuit. They can help you find investigative resources of your own that can prove that you didn't do what the company says you did. Getting in touch with the right criminal defense attorney quickly is also important: speed in your response can be critical to getting the best outcome.

If you have, in fact, diverted company proceeds then you need to be honest with your attorney about how much you think you diverted and the reasons. Many people who divert company proceeds start with the intention of paying back the "borrowed" money and find that the situation spirals out of control. Some people have legitimate financial pressures such as a serious family illness a major unexpected expense from an accident or disaster. It is important that your attorney understand why you diverted the money just as much as they understand how you diverted it. This will allow them to tell your story and seek to mitigate your consequences as much as possible.

Accusations of embezzlement are serious matters with long term consequences outside criminal prosecution that can hamper employment opportunities, mortgage applications, student loan applications or other personal financial dealings. As soon as an accusation of embezzlement is made against you, it is imperative that you get an experienced defense attorney on your side.

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