Profile of an Embezzler

Four years' data compiled on 1,583 major embezzlements

in the US between 2008 and 2011

– Major embezzlers begin their schemes in their early 40s.

– The average major embezzlement spans a 4.7-year period.

– By a significant margin, embezzlers are most likely to be individuals who hold bookkeeping or finance positions (66.7 percent of all cases).

– The financial services industry suffers the greatest losses from embezzlement (more than 20 percent of all losses in the data).

– Nonprofits, including religious organizations, account for nearly one-eighth

of all the ?incidents (12.1 percent of all cases).

– Women are more likely to embezzle than men (63.8 percent vs. 36.2 percent


– Men embezzle significantly more than women ($1.7 million vs. $800,000,

on average).

– The vast majority of embezzlements are caused by sole perpetrators (87 percent

of all cases).

– Gambling is a clear motivating factor in driving some perpetrators to embezzle.

– About five percent of major embezzlers have prior criminal histories.

– The most common embezzlement scheme involves forgery or unauthorized use

of company checks (37 percent of all cases in which the method was known).

The next most common scheme involves the theft and/or conversion of cash

receipts (19.6 percent).

– California has experienced the greatest number of major embezzlements over

the past four years (191 cases or 12 percent overall), followed by Michigan

(83/5.2 percent), Pennsylvania (82/5.2 percent), New York (70/4.4 percent) and

Texas (69/4.4 percent).

$70 Million Scam Hit Michigan

The largest embezzlement case in the news in 2011 was for a whopping $70 million and involved thousands of Michigan residents.

The scam involved 71-year-old Clayton Smart, recently of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, who fleeced as many as 13,000 trust accounts he controlled for customers at several cemeteries he owned in Michigan and Tennessee in the mid-2000s, with the help of at least two accomplices.

In September 2011, Smart was sentenced to 20 years in prison – the maximum allowed – and ordered to pay $48,670,000 in restitution.

About three-quarters of the restitution were to be directed toward Michigan victims and one-quarter to Tennessee victims.