Is it illegal to use the company card for personal expenses?

Having a "company card" is a privilege that not every employee gets. Generally speaking, access to a company card is reserved for only the employees that are in the most trusted positions.

While some companies carefully watch the charges that go on those cards, others do not. As long as the balance gets paid and there doesn't seem to be any red flags on the account, companies will sometimes turn a blind eye to the "expenses" their employees charge -- as long as the bill gets paid.

Until they don't.

One Illinois man learned the hard way that access to a company card -- no matter how generous -- doesn't equal "free money" that can be used at will. According to reports, the 46-year-old and his 34-year-old escort-turned-girlfriend racked up an incredible $5.79 million on a company account belonging to the man's employer, the French medical device maker Nemera.

According to the man's testimony, he spiraled into a depression following his 2012 divorce. That led him to binge on alcohol and prostitutes, among other things. He fell in love with one escort and eventually moved her and her children in with him. Together, they proceeded to use the card quite liberally -- in ways that his employer neither condoned nor authorized. That included things like hiring a private car for the girlfriend and funding her fledgling business.

After it all fell apart, the girlfriend was found guilty of five counts of wire fraud related to her use of the card and sentenced to over four years in prison. The man testified against her but was ultimately sentenced to 25 months in prison for his role in the wire fraud.

People make mistakes all the time. While generally not quite so excessive in nature, it isn't uncommon for someone in desperate financial straits to misuse a company credit card. When that happens, they not only risk their livelihood, the risk charges of fraud, embezzlement or worse.

If you've made mistakes with a company card, don't delay: Get experienced legal assistance as soon as possible.

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