What constitutes misuse of public funds?

August 4, 2022
What constitutes misuse of public funds?

If you are employed by a government entity in Missouri, be it local, state or federal, the funds you deal with are public funds that belong to the “public” your employer serves. Should law enforcement officials allege that you betrayed your public trust by misusing or mishandling these funds, the government can prosecute you in either state or federal court depending on the agency for which you work.

If you work for a branch or agency of the federal government, the Offices of the United States Attorneys sets forth a number of crimes for which you face conviction for allegedly misusing public funds.

Prohibited actions

Section 1661 of the Federal Criminal Resource Manual lists a number of U.S. Code sections under which the government can prosecute you for alleged wrongdoing, including the following:

  • Receiving and/or retaining monies to which you are not entitled as salary
  • Failing to appropriately deposit any public funds you receive
  • Knowingly receiving, using, transferring, loaning or appropriating public funds in a manner not authorized by law
  • Failing to disburse any sums less than those required by law
  • Falsely certifying full payment of a governmental obligation when such is not the case
  • Withdrawing, transferring or applying funds without the proper authority

Applicable penalties

The government considers most of the above prohibited actions as forms of employee embezzlement for which you face serious penalties if convicted of one of these white collar crimes. Depending upon the precise statute under which the government prosecutes you, you face such penalties upon conviction as the following:

  • One year in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted of misappropriating less than $100
  • Up to 10 years in prison and a fine equal to the amount of the funds you misappropriated if convicted of misusing over $100
  • Other greater or lesser prison terms and fines depending on the provisions of the statute under which you received a conviction

This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.


For personalized legal guidance, call our office at 417-882-9300 or submit this form to schedule a meeting with an attorney.

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