The U.S. federal government provides all 50 states with funds for assisting the public. Through local agencies, the funds may serve a variety of purposes, such as paying for health care, housing and utilities. The employees of state agencies tasked with the distribution of those funds also have the responsibility of protecting them from theft.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, misusing or converting government funds or property without authorization may result in allegations of embezzlement. Federal law prohibits individuals designated as custodians of public funds from applying them to any unauthorized use.
Certain actions may result in a federal theft or embezzlement charge
An employee trusted with overseeing U.S. Treasury funds deposited into a local government account must transfer them to their intended recipients. The law prohibits an employee from using the funds for personal expenses.
An employee with control over directing public funds also has a responsibility to see that the intended beneficiaries receive the correct amounts. Falsely certifying that beneficiaries received funding amounts other than what was actually provided may result in an embezzlement charge.
Public administrator charged after using government funds for personal expenses
As reported by KNWA Fox 24, an Arkansas city’s Office Administrator faced state and federal charges related to misuse of public funds after the city received federal emergency funding to pay for water services. The employee allegedly wrote checks to herself and her husband. She pleaded guilty to a theft charge and a judge sentenced her to 32 months of incarceration followed by probation. She was also ordered to pay restitution.
When charged with theft of federal funds, a prosecutor must provide evidence of an employee’s conversion with intent to keep the proceeds. If the value of misappropriated funds exceeds $100, an offense may classify as a felony.