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What Is Bank Embezzlement?

San Quentin State Prison in California. An embezzlement conviction will typically result in a prison sentence.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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Bank embezzlement is a criminal activity where an employee of a bank takes funds from the bank. Banks are very careful during their hiring process to select people who are trustworthy and can be relied upon to handle large amounts of money, but even the best screening can occasionally miss a potential problem. Some bank embezzlement cases have involved relatively small amounts of money, while others have been quite substantial. People who commit embezzlement at banks have a wide variety of reasons for doing so.

In embezzlement in general, a person in a position of trust abuses that trust. Embezzlers are legally allowed to handle the assets in their care and they use their positions to relocate those assets. Bank embezzlement can involve anything from stealing money in a bank vault to conducting phony transfers to move money into an embezzler's account. Because the embezzler is a bank employee, he or she has unique access to the bank and is able to utilize that to advantage.

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Banks use a number of procedures to reduce the risks of bank embezzlement. During the hiring process, employees are reviewed carefully, and background checks are also performed periodically on current employees to identify people who may be at risk of embezzling. Banks also monitor employee activities with cameras, require meticulous logging of activities by bank employees, and use supervisors to watch people on the floor in person. All of these measures are designed both to deter and identify embezzlement in the early stages so that the bank can take action.

If an employee is accused and convicted of embezzlement, there will be a prison sentence. People who have been convicted of embezzlement are usually unable to find employment in the financial services industry after they have served their terms and they may have difficulty finding jobs in other fields that put people in a position to control assets. In some cases, embezzlers attempt to evade the law by fleeing the country with stolen assets and seeking shelter in a foreign country.

A notable case in Germany in 2009 involved an embezzler, dubbed “the Robin Hood Banker,” who transferred money from the accounts of wealthy bank clients to poor clients. Other embezzlers have stolen from their financial institutions to cover unexpected expenses, sometimes claiming that they intended to repay the funds. Bank embezzlement has also been committed purely for personal gain by bank employees.

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