Wisconsin does not have a law titled “embezzlement,” however what most people believe to be embezzlement – the theft of money or property by an employee is clearly delineated in the Wisconsin statutes – section 943.20(1)(b). This section makes it illegal for those who take property without the owner’s consent for their own use by virtue of their office, business or employment.
Allegations of embezzlement can be handled as a civil matter – that is between the business or entity that has lost property and the employee/office holder who has allegedly taken the property. However, more and more these matters are being referred to Wisconsin law enforcement authorities for criminal charges. In the case of a non-profit or government entity, there will almost always be a referral of the matter to law enforcement.
Investigations that involve either the company acting on its own, or with the aid of law enforcement, are extremely unsettling – they call into question the accused professional’s integrity and reputation. Even an investigation that ends with no criminal case can destroy the career of a reputable person.
Investigations will include reviews of the individual’s work practices, emails, financial documents, internet use history, expense submissions, and any document produced or reviewed by the individual. Often an investigation into one area of a professional’s work history will uncover other embarrassing material. In addition, the accused’s co-workers, customers, and contractors may be interviewed by the investigators. This can result in further discomfort and life-long stigma.
The penalties for embezzlement vary based upon the value of the property that was taken. Even the least severe embezzlement charge carries a possible penalty of nine (9) months in jail. The most serious embezzlement charge can carry a ten (10) year prison sentence.
If you are subject to an investigation for embezzlement in your place of business, call an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.