Several laws guide the justice system and the public on issues related to the embezzlement of public funds. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 8, United States Constitution §§ 643, 644, 648, 649, 650, 651, 652, and 653, all constitute complimentary definitions and consequences of misuse of public resources (1661, n.d). This essay offers an overview of the topic detailing its definition, some of the consequences attached to stealing public funds, and some famous cases that have been tried in the courts regarding misuse of public property.
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Embezzlement of public funds is defined as the misuse, stealing, or misappropriation of funds that are initially held by the government or the state for any reason (Grundvig, 2016). The allocation of government funds is a pre-approved process. Thus, money cannot be used for any other but the intended purpose unless this use is also approved. Many states have different additional laws on embezzlement of public funds. For example, California uses the Penal Code 424 to try and sentence cases related to the misappropriation of public funds (Grundvig, 2016).
The code stipulates that anyone found guilty of the misuse of public funds will be sentenced to 2 to 4 years in the state prison and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the case facts. It is important to note that embezzlement can be defined as both a state and a federal crime. The U.S. Department of Justice (2013) explains that the punishment of embezzlement as a federal crime is much heavier compared to those given at the state level. For example, the 18 U.S. Code Chapter 31 – Embezzlement and Theft offers a 10-year prison sentence for embezzlement.
Indeed, there are many cases that have been publicly tried regarding the loss and theft of public property. For example, Goldman Sachs, an investment bank in the U.S., is currently under investigation over a multibillion-dollar embezzlement case (Goldstein, Stevenson & Flitter, 2018). The case involves the loss of money from a state-funded project in Malaysia. Goldstein et al. (2018) explain that this is one of the biggest embezzlement cases ever reported. Additionally, it involves two governments, as the Prime Minister of Malaysia is also under investigation. This link brings in the concept of international and state relations.
It is critical that all staff understand what embezzlement is and how to avoid it. Organizations that engage with public resources should be well trained on how to detect and also avoid fraud. For example, what would your organization state as the embezzlement of public funds within its work scope? If an employee uses public money to pay a debt with the intention of returning that money at a later date, would you consider that embezzlement? Or is such fraud only associated with the stealing of money and other resources without the intention to return? Such questions have to be considered when dealing with cases of public fraud. Indeed, the examples given are both forms of misuse of public resources and would lead to significant jail time.
In conclusion, the legislative and judicial systems have ensured that there are laws pertaining to the embezzlement of public funds. Such crimes are punishable by both payments of a fine and jail time. Organizations should be careful and train their employees on types of embezzlement. This will ensure accountability and transparency within the organization. It is also important that such training is done frequently to both the new and the retained staff.
Goldstein, M., Stevenson, A. & Flitter, E. (2018). Goldman Sachs ensnarled in a vast 1MDB fraud scandal. The New York Times. Web.
Grundvig, O. J (2016). Master manipulator: The explosive true story of fraud, embezzlement, and government betrayal at the C.D.C. New York, NY: SkyHouse
U.S. Department of Justice. (2013). Criminal RICO: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (A Manual for Federal Prosecutors). Washington. DC: Author.