Employee Theft: Do You Have Sticky Fingers?
Statistically, there’s a good chance that you didn’t buy the pen in your purse or jacket pocket, but took it from work. People take things from work all the time, either intentionally or not. Most don’t really think about such pilfering as theft, rationalizing that it’s one of the “benefits” that come with the job, but there is no ‘de minimis’ requirement for theft – if it’s company property, then it’s not yours to take, be it a pen, money, or anything else of value.
One survey produced by a security company discovered that a whopping 95% of people steal or have stolen from work at some point. An AOL Jobs survey reports, “43 percent of people admitted to taking things from work to keep for personal use.” Every year, theft committed by employeescosts businesses up to about $3.5 trillion dollars. In the long run,that translates into higher prices for consumers, and may be evidence that there are a lot of unhappy people in America’s companies.
From Paper Clips to Diamonds
Most people draw the line at the odd pen, notepad, or binder – they are not adept or committed thievestrying to make extra money from their crimes. However, the activities of some office thieves make common pen pilfering pale in comparison:
- Adrian Rodriguez, the New York law firm employee who was convicted in 2013 of stealing more than $376,000 worth of copy machine toner cartridges, which he then sold on what one prosecutor described as a robust “black market for office supplies” currently flourishing in the city.
- Michael Brooks and Javunte Wheeler were caught red-handed as they were trying to steal $7,500 worth of iPads from a Federal Express storage facility in Chicago by secreting them out under a sweatshirt and tossing them over the facility fence to a waiting car.
- Tiffany’s Vice-President Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun is now serving a year in prison for stealing jewelry worth over $1.3 million dollars from the high-end retailer, which she sold to re-sellers over a two year period.
Why do people steal from their employers?
Surely someone like Lederhaas-Okun didn’t need the money she got from re-selling the jewelry, as she was a highly-paid executive who lived in a $4 million houselocated in a ritzy Connecticut suburb of New York City. Toronto psychologist Dr. Will Cupchik explains that,when normally law-abiding people steal, the act itself is usually a result of emotional or psychological problems. He said, “When honest people start stealing stuff, they have experienced or anticipate an unfair personal,meaningful loss.”
This is the defense Lederhaas-Okun’s theft attorney presented, arguing that her actions were the result of depression caused by personal problems, such as being unable to bear children and not getting an expected promotion.
But in the eyes of the law, stealing is stealing, whether it’s a diamond necklace worth $10,000 or a box of paperclips. If you’re caught, the penalties can certainly include losing your job and the friendship and respect of your friends and co-workers. But you may also face a range of criminal charges:
- Petty theft: This is the charge if the stolen items are worth less than $500 – $1000. Penalties can range from a fine to jail time.
- Grand Theft: Items worth more than petty theft goods will garner grand theft charges, which can also be ranked as felonies that draw much more severe penalties, including prison time of up to 25 years.
But most people will never have to worry about this. It’s pretty unlikely that the police will follow you to your car when you leave work at 5:00 pm and conduct a body cavity search for a paperclip!
About the Author :
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.