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Why do good people sometimes embezzle from their employers?

| Jun 19, 2021 | White Collar Crimes |

Embezzlement is nothing new, and as such, criminologists have been intently studying this phenomenon for quite some time. A typical embezzler is in their 40’s and has had no criminal history. Surprisingly, embezzlers are overwhelmingly women. So, why would an otherwise law-abiding, good person be prompted to make such a drastic life-altering decision? 

Although it is impossible to know exactly why people do what they do, the reasons often fall into one of three categories: pressure, opportunity, and rationalization. 

Prompted by pressure

A person that has recently experienced financial difficulty could be prompted to embezzle. Maybe the embezzler, or a loved one, was recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Maybe they are facing constant phone calls and threatening letters from debt collectors. Maybe they are facing foreclosure proceedings on the family home, and/or facing civil court charges? The “maybes” are endless, as well as the emotional buttons that can trigger embezzlement.

Prompted by opportunity

Theft without access is exceedingly difficult unless one resorts to armed robbery. Many employees see large sums of company money pass through their fingers regularly. This opportunity combined with some of the pressure factors listed above may result in an employee yielding to temptation. Key employees often have access to accounts, petty cash, and company credit cards. Embezzlement involves taking a variety of company assets, but most often it involves money. 

Prompted by rationalization

Embezzlement is never justified, but that does not stop the human psyche from trying. Maybe an employee feels undervalued, under-respected, or underpaid. Conversely, maybe they feel overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed. Additionally, maybe the employee is suffering from a mental illness that drives the compulsion or suffers from a gambling addiction. Again, the possibilities for rationalizing embezzlement are limitless. 

When pressures from someone’s personal life collide with opportunity and the ability to rationalize, embezzlement can happen. Even good people can make serious mistakes, however, especially when they’re mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. If you or someone you love has been charged with embezzlement, there may still be a positive outcome to your situation. Talk to an experienced defense attorney today.