Three lessons from the Cargill embezzlement case

The agricultural giant has accused a manager of embezzlement. The case provides lessons for anyone facing similar charges.

The relationship between employers and employees is many layered. At higher levels, the relationship often involves a level of trust that can result in a great deal of responsibility. Employers may accuse those who are given this trust of abusing the privilege. In some cases, these accusations can rise to the level of allegations of commission of white collar crime.

Such allegations are not uncommon. Cases of employers accusing employees of criminal activity abound. In some cases the allegations are weak and the claims die down. In others, the allegations have support and proceed to a criminal hearing.

One such case currently making headlines throughout the country involves Cargill, the largest privately held corporation in the country. The company is in the midst of a massive embezzlement case. The case involves a manager who is accused of stealing over $3 million over a span of 10 years. Allegations include that the manager was falsifying the amount that customers were paying, placed customer payments within her own personal accounts and falsified tax documents.

What is embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a type of white collar crime. White collar crimes are defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as those "characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence." Essentially, these are nonviolent crimes that involve a person in a position of trust misusing that trust for their own personal gain.

A person that uses this trust to misappropriate funds is accused of embezzlement. There are generally four elements that must be met for a charge of embezzlement to stand. These include the presence of a fiduciary relationship, use of this relationship to acquire the funds, person accused of the crime took actual possession of the funds and the act was intentional.

What lessons are present in this case?

In this case, the woman had a fiduciary relationship as a manager within the company. She admitted to intentionally using this role to acquire funds from clients and put them within her own accounts.

There are many lessons from this case that can apply to anyone facing similar allegations. Three of the more applicable include:

  • Penalties are harsh. In this case, the accused faces up to eleven years imprisonment for the falsified tax records alone. Additional jail time can come with the other allegations.
  • Embezzlement charges often come with other charges. This case involved not only embezzlement charges, but allegations of tax fraud and mail fraud as well. It is fairly common for embezzlement charges to be accompanied with other criminal charges which lead to additional penalties.
  • Criminal penalties are only the beginning. In addition to criminal penalties, allegations of white collar crimes like embezzlement also result in damage to the reputation of the accused. This damage can seem insurmountable, making it difficult to find future employment opportunities.

These three lessons are only a small portion of the impact a white collar crime allegation can have on the accused. As such, those facing the charges are wise to seek legal counsel.