It depends on the specific facts of the case. Embezzlement is essentially defined as "theft," and all of the various types of fraud that are punished under federal law (mail, wire, bank, etc.) are generally defined as the devising or execution or the attempt to devise or execute a scheme or artifice to defraud a person or entity of money or property. Therefore, the definitions of fraud include theft or embezzlement in many cases, although certainly not all. Also, federal prosecutors must bring fraud rather embezzlement charges in some cases because of the jurisdictional element. For example, mail fraud is the fraud defined above wherin the accused happened to have used the mail (or private commercial carrier), even incidentally. Embezzlement and theft, however, usually require that the victim receive a at least $10,000 in federal funding annually. Therefore, if someone embezzled money from his or her employer and used the mail or wire, but the employer did not receive federal funding, then mail or wire fraud charges would be brought instead of theft or embezzlement.
Joshua Sabert Lowther, Esq.
NATIONAL FEDERAL DEFENSE GROUP
As my colleague just stated, there are specific pieces of information that must be proved. The specifics for each crime are set out in the statutes that define the crimes. Look in Title 18 of the United States Code for the specific crime. You can find these at http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml.
When a federal crime is charged, there must be some relation to a federal law or to interstate commerce or activity. Without those, the authorities are limited to using state law. That is the reason my colleague just mentioned the use of mail or wire, since those cross state lines. In a state law charge, there are likely to be fewer specific pieces of information to prove, because the prosecutor would not have to prove a link to interstate commerce.
In any event, the difficulty of proving any criminal charge lies in the standard of proof. Unlike a civil lawsuit, the prosecutor must prove each specifically required fact in the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. In the civil cases the standard is preponderance of the evidence. The reasonable doubt standard is designed to make the charges difficult to prove, so only the truly guilty are convicted.
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I agree with my colleagues, it is hard to answer such a broad question, but in general, there is no answer. Each case would be different and turns on different facts. Which one is more difficult to prove depends on the case.
This response does not create an attorney client relationship and is offered for informational purposes only. Only a lawyer fully versed on the facts and circumstances of your case can properly advise you on the case. I am licensed to practice in Minnesota, not every state. You should always consult with an attorney licensed in your area on how best to proceed.