Origin of the word
The word embezzle comes from the 14th century Anglo-French word ‘enbesiler’ meaning ‘to steal or cause to disappear’. Its first recorded use as a word meaning ‘to fraudulently dispose of for one’s own benefit’ is from sometime in the 1580s.
Embezzle is a verb that refers to the criminal act of stealing money that has been entrusted to someone as part of a work agreement. Related words include embezzlement, a noun that refers to the theft of work-related funds, and embezzler, a noun that refers to a person who steals money from his or her place of employment.
A Glasgow shopkeeper was recently sentenced to 34 months in prison for embezzlement, a final twist in a bizarre tale that began in February 2017.
The man claimed that two masked men entered his store in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, armed with a pistol and a shotgun, and threatened to kill him. He said the gunmen destroyed his shop’s CCTV footage before making off with approximately £120,000 in cash. However, when police reviewed CCTV footage from cameras located outside the store, the shopkeeper’s story began to unravel. No armed men could be seen entering or exiting the shop, and authorities immediately began to doubt the man’s account. He was quickly brought up on charges of embezzlement and making a false report.
The shopkeeper pleaded guilty to the false report charge and to embezzling more than £124,000 from his own Post Office. In court, his defence solicitor claimed the man needed the money to cover substantial losses from a failed business venture. He requested leniency for his client, who he described as a hard-working family man who made a terrible mistake. The court, however, sentenced the shopkeeper to 28 months in prison on the embezzlement charge and another six months for wasting police resources.
According to the judge who handed down the sentence, the seriousness of the charges — despite the shopkeeper’s admission of guilt — warranted jail time:
“You were in a position of trust and you embezzled quite a substantial sum of money. There is no disposal open to the court other than a period of imprisonment.” – BBC News. 20 November 2017: ‘Shopkeeper stole £120,000 in fake armed raid at Post Office.’
1. to steal money that people trust you to look after as part of your work
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.