Can Embezzlement Be a Form of Vulnerable Adult Abuse?

April 6, 2017 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Does embezzling money from the elderly and vulnerable count as abuse?
Does embezzling money from the elderly and vulnerable count as abuse?


Traditionally the issue of embezzlement is dealt with by criminal defense attorneys and has nothing to do with the issue of abuse. However, when the victim is a vulnerable adult, embezzlement can be viewed as a form of abuse, because stripping a vulnerable person of their financial safety net can have very serious implications for them. What often makes it worse is the fact that they are completely unable to protect themselves, and sometimes do not even understand what has happened.


All embezzlement is defined as the taking of money to which a person has legal access, but not ownership rights. However, when the victims are adults whose age, medical condition, or mental health makes them vulnerable, it can change the scope of the case significantly. To clear this up for you, let’s take a look at how the law defines these terms.


Michigan law is very specific about what constitutes embezzlement from a vulnerable adult. “A person shall not through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, coercion, or unjust enrichment obtain or use or attempt to obtain or use a vulnerable adult’s money or property to directly or indirectly benefit that person knowing or having reason to know the vulnerable adult is a vulnerable adult.”


State law defines a vulnerable adult as “An individual age 18 or over who, because of age, developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability, requires supervision or personal care, or lacks the personal and social skills required to live independently.” So by law, any elderly person who is unable to fully and independently care for themselves is considered a vulnerable adult.


Technically, in Michigan, a person who is charged with embezzling funds, whether from a business or from an individual, will face criminal charges. The charges and penalties will differ based on the quantity of money stolen, or the value of the embezzled property, not the age or vulnerability of the alleged victim.


If the victim is a vulnerable adult, while the crime may be referred to as “vulnerable abuse abuse” or “financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable” it will still be charged simply as embezzlement under Michigan law. It is important to understand the difference. In Michigan, Vulnerable Adult Abuse, as defined by the law, refers to physical abuse and neglect, not financial abuse.


While embezzlement cases can be awful for everyone involved, when the victim is considered to be a vulnerable adult, it can significantly change how the case plays out. Juries tend to look less kindly on those who are seen as ‘preying’ on the elderly and at risk. A skilled and professional defense is the only way to combat these kinds of charges.

So whether you are facing charges for financial and fraud crimes, or you have been accused of abusing or neglecting a vulnerable adult, we can help you. Our skilled criminal defense team has decades of experience successfully handling abuse and neglect cases all over Michigan. Call us today at 866) 766-5245. We can help you too.