Shoplifting is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor in North Carolina, except when the suspect removes an anti-theft security device from the product. In those cases, the person may be prosecuted with a felony charge, although, assuming the amount of theft is relatively low, a deferred prosecution or deferral program is sometimes available. In many other cases, the charge will be reduced to misdemeanor. Rarely, is theft by removal of an anti-theft security device prosecuted as an actual felony.
But embezzlement is another matter entirely. Embezzlement is always a felony, even where the amount of theft is relatively low. While sometimes embezzlement charges can be reduced or dismissed (as part of a deferred prosecution agreement), where the amounts are in the tens of thousands of dollars or more, the person is likely to face a felony prosecution.
As someone who has defended people charged with serious embezzlement charges, where the embezzlement can be proved by the state, the issue comes down to mitigation: how much restitution can be provided to the victims and can a good reason be articulated to explain the theft: a sick child who needs expensive medical treatment, for instance.
The Atlantic reports:
The Global Retail Barometer, an annual report released late last week, revealed that American retail staff steal a lot more from their employers than actual, dedicated thieves: Employees account for 43 percent of revenues that were lost but shouldn’t have been, while shoplifters account for 37 percent. Usually, this takes the form of unsupervised sleight-of-hand at the register—benefiting from purposely canceling transactions that shouldn’t be canceled or issuing unwarranted refunds—and it accounted for about $18 billion in lost retail revenue last year in the U.S.