Stealing is a crime in West Virginia, and embezzlement is a form of stealing. Of course, embezzlement charges tend to be much more serious than an accusation of shoplifting a pair of jeans.

The general definition of embezzlement is the theft of assets by a person placed in a position of trust or responsibility over the assets. In this context, “assets” can mean either money or property. Most of the time, people accused or charged with embezzlement work in certain professions, such as accounting or banking, or in retail, such as someone who works in a store. This is why embezzlement is considered a “white collar” crime.

To prove embezzlement in court, prosecutors must show four things to be true beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. There was a fiduciary relationship between the victim and the defendant, meaning that the victim relied on the defendant in some way.

2. The defendant acquired the allegedly stolen property through the fiduciary relationship.

3. The defendant took ownership of the property, or transferred it to a third party.

4. The defendant acted intentionally.

The reasons people embezzle vary, but often it is related to a drug or gambling addiction. Common methods include issuing payroll checks to phony “employees,” fraudulent billing and falsifying business records.

An investigation for embezzlement can last a long time before police actually arrest the suspect. If you believe you are being investigated for embezzlement or other white collar crime, you need to get in touch with a defense attorney, instead of waiting to see if you are charged first.