Michigan Criminal Law: Theft/Larceny Crimes; Embezzlement by Agent or Servant

Financial crimes and theft offenses are a significant portion of a typical Michigan court’s criminal docket. Financial transactions are conducted through a variety of methods, and most of those methods are typically regulated by the Federal and State government.

In particular, businesses may be susceptible to theft by their agents. One criminal charge that arises out of these allegations is called “Embezzlement by a servant or agent;” MCL 750.174, .181.

The possible penalties for a conviction based on these charges depend on the amount allegedly taken, and range from low-level misdemeanors punishable by up to ninety-three days in jail up to serious felony charges. MCL 750.174, .181. Restitution, fines, costs, probation, or other sanctions may be part of a sentence as well depending on the charge. MCL 750.174, .181.

In order to prove this charge, a prosecutor must show the following:

(1) The defendant is charged with the crime of embezzlement. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(2) First, that the [money / property] belongs to [name principal] .1

(3) Second, that the defendant had a relationship of trust with [name principal] because the defendant was [define relationship] .2

(4) Third, that the defendant obtained possession or control of the [money / property] because of this relationship.

(5) Fourth, that the defendant

[Choose (a), (b), or (c):]

(a) dishonestly disposed of the [money / property] .

(b) converted the [money / property] to [his / her] own use.

(c) took or hid the [money / property] with the intent to convert it to [his / her] own use without consent of [name principal] .

(6) Fifth, that at the time the defendant did this, [he / she] intended to defraud or cheat [name principal] of some property.3

(7) Sixth, that the fair market value of the property or amount of money embezzled was:4

[Choose only one of the following unless instructing on lesser offenses:]

(a) $20,000 or more.

(b) $1,000 or more, but less than $20,000.

(c) $200 or more, but less than $1,000.

(d) some amount less than $200.

[Use the following paragraph only if applicable:]

(8)  [You may add together the value of property or money embezzled in separate incidents if part of a scheme or course of conduct (within a 12-month period)5 when deciding whether the prosecutor has proved the amount required beyond a reasonable doubt.]

M. Crim. JI. 27.1

As the the instruction above notes, this charge only relates to people who are considered “agents” or “servants” of the “principle.” M. Crim. JI. 27.1. This agency relationship element distinguishes these charges from other theft offenses.

Another key distinguishing feature is that the prosecutor must prove the “fair market value” of the embezzled money or property. Given the variance of the possible type of charge and potential penalties, proving the “fair market value” is an especially important element for the prosecutor when the allegations involve embezzled property. M. Crim. JI. 27.1.

Restitution if often a big issue with these cases. Further, since it is considered a theft offense, there are collateral consequences that go well beyond the courts if a person is convicted of this charge. A conviction for this type of charge, for example, may bar someone from working in certain professions or make it nearly impossible to find employment.
Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that ultimately, they will be convicted.

If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, I encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer.

If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.