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SAT vocabulary: embezzle

Montage of $100 bills to illustrate the word "embezzle"
So intoxicating.

embezzle

What does “embezzle” mean?

Part of Speech: VERB

Pronunciations: IPA: /ɛm.ˈbɛ.zl/ Glossary-style: [ehm-BEH-zl]

Definition: appropriate or steal money or property that one has been entrusted with (Ex: embezzle money from one’s employer).

Example: Many an accountant has been faced with the opportunity to embezzle funds, but ethical professionals resist the temptation to steal from the people who have hired them and trust them.

Discussion: Social commentators have long noted that the American justice system punishes street crime more harshly than so-called white-collar crime, most likely be the latter is less violent and less publicly-visible than the former.

A well-known example of recent memory is that of the Enron executives, who manipulated financial records to make billions of dollars in profits and cause investors to lose billions of dollars, literally ruining the lives of many Enron investors and employees (who had been expecting to receive pensions from Enron during their retirement). The Enron executives received prison sentences ranging from sixteen to thirty years.

Contrast these sentences with that of Jerry Williams, who received a prison sentence of 25 years to life, literally for stealing a slice of pizza. Williams fell under California’s “three-strike” law, which mandates that habitual criminals be given stricter sentences.

The public has been growing increasingly angry and vocal about the impact that white-collar crime has one America (and the world), especially after the veritable collapse of the U.S. banking system in the 2000s.

Perhaps that is why Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street investor who bilked investors of literally billions of dollars through one of history’s greatest Ponzi schemes, received 150 years of prison sentences.

That was long and a bit off-topic. Just remember, “embezzlement” is a type of white-collar crime, but it’s ultimately just theft.

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