What are larceny, embezzlement and false pretenses? What are the different degrees based on?

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 15, 2021Fact Checked

Larceny, embezzlement and false pretenses are crimes that involve elements of theft, fraud or dishonesty, and all usually involve tangible misappropriated (or converted) property. These crimes can different in degree depending on the value or nature of the property that was the subject of the theft or fraud.

Misappropriation – Theft and Larceny

Anyone who takes property from an unwilling victim with the intention of keeping it is guilty of larceny, or theft, as it is called in some jurisdictions. The grading or degree charged depends on the value of the property taken. For example, in New York, grand larceny of the third degree involves theft of property valued at over three thousand dollars, while grand larceny of the fourth degree involves the theft of property valued between one thousand and three thousand dollars. Shoplifting or retail theft is a common type of larceny crime.

Misappropriation – Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the crime of taking property entrusted to the offender by its owner and using it for other purposes. The most common type of embezzlement occurs when an employee takes money or property from his employer. Unlike larceny, the offender often has the right to possess the property, but not to use it. Like larceny, the degree of the crime depends on the value of the property that was taken.

Misappropriation – Theft by Deception or False Pretense

Also called theft by deception, false pretense is a crime when an offender obtains property from another through fraud, deception or deceit. It differs from larceny in that the victim knowingly hands the property to the offender based on a misrepresentation. Generally, in degree it is charged based on the value of the property taken. However, some states, like Illinois, grade the offense on the nature of the deceit or deception involved. For example, the fraudulent use of a railroad pass as a crime is graded differently than obtaining a victims’ money through a confidence game such as three-card monte. 

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

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