Embezzlement cases have always been a large part of my Criminal Practice. Having handled countless Embezzlement charges in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I've grown to like them. I have written a number of Embezzlement articles on this blog, and have given the subject a concise overview on my website. Instead of rehashing the whole process of being contacted by a Police Detective (or Loss Prevention person from a company) and how to assert your right to not incriminate yourself, all the way to how these cases are usually resolved, this article will focus more on why the investigation into an allegation of embezzlement is usually quite different in character from the investigation into any other alleged Criminal Offense.
In the first instance, there is almost never a situation where the Police discover "Embezzlement" without there having first been a report from an outside source. Other kinds of Criminal charges, such as DUI, or Possession of Controlled Substances, or even Indecent Exposure, are discovered, or "happened upon" by the Police as part of their routine patrols. That doesn't happen with Embezzlement.
Most often, an employer suspects Embezzlement by an employee after the discovery of something "strange." Here is where the scenarios can be all over the map. In some cases, a little "skimming" may have gone unnoticed for years and years. In other cases, a suspected monetary shortfall is questioned, and irregularities turn up. Embezzlement charges can involve things from unauthorized charges on an employee charge card or expense account, to the distribution of funds through bogus checks, sales commissions paid, or merchandise obtained from "fake" sales, as well as just about anything else you can imagine where merchandise, money or "value" has been diverted from the employer.
Whatever else, Embezzlement charges arise because something "irregular" is noticed. I've seen cases where the person in a particular position has been out sick, or transferred to another duty, and the new person covering their old position, in trying to figure out how to do things, has discovered that things don't quite add up. Sometime, a business, while conducting an audit, finds the "blackjack math." However it is found out, someone, somewhere, spots some detail that doesn't seem right, and that becomes the spark that leads to a further inquiry.
Once that further inquiry begins, things usually fall together pretty quickly. Over the years, I've received loads of calls from people rather nervous about being contacted by their boss, or some "superior" from their company. As I explore what's going on, I learn that usually, some financial irregularity has been discovered, and the employer has decided to dig deeper into things. Often, the person at the center of it all is hoping to come up with a sufficient explanation to cause the matter to be dropped, but in real life, that never happens. Once an employer finds that the math doesn't add up, they'll keep looking. After all, it's not as if an employer finds out that its bank balance has been inexplicably credited with extra money from some unknown source. Once any normal person catches a whiff that they're being shorted, they'll follow that scent to wherever it leads.
At the point that an employer suspects someone particular of Embezzlement, things can go in many different directions. In a smaller workplace, there is often an immediate confrontation with the suspected employee. In larger companies, the employee may have no idea he or she is being investigated. Companies large enough to have a Loss Prevention Department may set up surveillance of the person, and let them continue to work, unaware that their actions are being closely watched.