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The criminal charge of Scheme to Defraud in New York often arises in the context of intricate and large-scale thefts. As such, there is typically a Grand Larceny or other theft-related offense accompanying the Scheme to Defraud charge on a felony complaint or indictment. While it is tempting to see this overlap and view a Scheme to Defraud charge as just another form of larceny, doing so can have disastrous consequences for any criminal defense. Scheme to Defraud is quite clearly a distinct charge, with its own unique nuances, related statutory rules, and methods of proof that you must fully address with you or criminal defense attorney. One such issue is the idea of “moral certainty” in the context of either an NY PL 190.65 or NY PL 190.60 arrest.
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Identity Theft is an issue that affects more and more people in New York and the country every year. In this digital age, criminal charges relating to Identity Theft can become extremely complex and difficult to analyze. For example, can a person unlawfully “possess” someone’s credit card number without actually possessing the card itself? Is a person unlawfully assuming another person’s identity when they use a stolen credit card number? In New York, the answer to these questions was given in People v. Barden, 117 A.D.3d 216 (1st Dept. 2014) as “yes” and “no” respectively.

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Financial crimes such as New York Scheme to Defraud and charges under the New York Martin Act are notoriously complex and difficult to understand and interpret. This complexity only becomes more significant when there are, as is typically the case with such criminal charges, hundreds of thousands of pieces of documentary evidence. In those circumstances, it is easy for prosecutors to make glaring oversights or unintentionally misrepresent the facts, and just as easy for criminal defense attorneys to let those negligent misdeeds go unnoticed. The question then becomes, “How does the Court deal with these prosecutorial errors when they become apparent.” This was exactly the question faced by by the New York County Supreme Court, Criminal Term in People v. Thompson, et al., 2016 NY Slip Op 50777(U) (N.Y. Co. Sup. 2016).

In Thompson, a white-collar criminal case involving a penny stock pump-and-dump scheme, the prosecutor presented numerous documents to the Grand Jury to obtain an indictment, including marketing emails to potential investors. Importantly, the prosecutor omitted highly relevant disclaimers that the defendants had included in those promotional emails, which were highly exculpatory with regard to the defendant’s intent. The Court found that the prosecutor should clearly have included the entire contents of those emails. While prosecutors are not generally obligated to to present all, or even any, evidence that is favorable to an accused person to the Grand Jury, the Court held that the prosecutor does have a duty of fairness to the accused which should prevent them from selectively omitting critical portions of a document that they are already presenting to the Grand Jury.

However, the Court in Thompson then gave the answer to the question above, which was that the indictment should still not be dismissed because, in this particular case, the Court did not believe that the prosecutor deliberately misled the Grand Jury, and those particular documents were just some of many that were presented, and not a critical part of the Grand Jury presentation.

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In New York, in order to be charged and convicted of a theft-related crime, it generally must be alleged that the defendant stole the property from an “owner” of that property. In other words, you can’t steal property from someone who doesn’t own that property, and you can’t steal property that rightfully belongs to you. This makes all the sense in the world, and doesn’t seem like it could ever lead to any ambiguity. However, it often does, particularly in the context of family and other close personal relationships. This entry will address when the “ownership” threshold is satisfied for the NYPD, other police officers or any branch of law enforcement to make an arrest and the respective District Attorney have sufficient evidence to prosecute the crime of either Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25, or any degree of Grand Larceny.

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Grand Larceny in the State of New York is a serious felony offense that carries with it the possibility of significant state prison time. There are multiple degrees of Grand Larceny, from First Degree to Fourth Degree, which can have vastly different consequences and sentencing ranges. One of the key factors distinguishing the various degrees of Grand Larceny is the value of the property that was allegedly stolen, from more than $1000 for Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, New York Penal Law 155.30, to more than $1,000,000 for Grand Larceny in the First Degree, New York Penal Law 155.42. On the surface, this may seem like a simple and sensible way to differentiate these charges. However, a significant degree of complexity can be added to the mix in the form of the principle of Aggregation.

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Any conviction in New York for either Grand Larceny or felony Criminal Possession of Stolen Property carries the potential of serious imprisonment and incarceration. Even the “lowest” felony crimes – Fourth Degree Grand Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.30) and Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (New York Penal Law 165.45) – have possible sentences of up to four years in prison. In other words, if you steal or knowingly possess stolen property worth a hair over $1,000 but no more than $3,000, jail is on the table in the eyes of the law.

Other than prison or jail, what are the financial ramifications, if any, involving restitution and fines and what is your exposure?

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Grand Larceny in New York is a theft or stealing when the value of the property wrongfully taken into your possession is greater than $1,000.00. This type of theft is defined as a Fourth Degree Grand Larceny according to New York Penal Law 155.30. As repeatedly noted throughout countless blogs, when the value is more than $3,000.00 the crime is elevated to Third Degree Grand Larceny as codified in New York Penal Law 155.35 as long as the amount does not exceed $50,000.00. Tucking away this basic understanding of these offenses, an element that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is the “taking” element while also identifying who the custodian is of that property or rightful owner. This entry addresses the legal concept of “taking” in a Grand Larceny and unlawful transaction as well as better defining who, and is not, an owner.

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You possess a $15,000.00 Rolex watch without the permission of the owner. You have an iPhone belonging to another person and he or she never gave you permission or authority to possess it. Certainly, if the owner never gave you the right to take, possess or have his or her property, whatever it may be and irrespective of its value, the fact that you possessed that property without a right to do so is proof of your guilt of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property pursuant to New York Penal Law Article 165? Although much depends on how prosecutors draft an accusatory instrument, without more than asserting you didn’t have permission, your criminal lawyer may successfully secure a dismissal of the complaint alleging Criminal Possession of Stolen Property.

In pertinent part, you are guilty of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property when you both knowingly possess the stolen property and when you do so with the purpose or objective to benefit yourself or a third party or, alternatively, to prevent the recovery of the property by the rightful owner. Just like Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny, if the amount or value of the property in question exceeds $1,000, $3,000, $50,000 or $1,000,000 the degree of the felony is enhanced in severity.

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Larceny crimes are fairly straight forward in New York State much like any other jurisdiction. If you steal property, irrespective of its value, and your intention is to keep it for yourself or from the rightful owner or possessor, you have committed either a Petit Larceny or a Grand Larceny as set forth in Article 155 of the New York Penal Law. Similarly, if you possess that property, knowing it is stolen and with the same intent to take it or prevent the rightful custodian from getting it back, then you are guilty of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property pursuant to Article 165 of the New York Penal Law.

The question or issues posed in this blog entry is how far you must go in your theft or possession of stolen property for a judge or jury to find you guilty of the same. In other words, what steps must you take or how far must you go to violate the law as either an attempted offense or a completed crime?

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What are the laws defining Blackmail in New York? Is Blackmail merely another word for Extortion? Are either one or both of these – Blackmail or Extortion – technically crimes in New York State? What is my recourse if I am either a victim of Extortion or, alternatively, accused of Blackmail?

As a preliminary matter, whether you choose to pursue criminal charges against an extorter or not, New York makes any Extortion a class “E” felony irrespective of the property the blackmailer takes from you or the value of that property. The crimes is more serious and a higher degree felony based on the value of the property as it exceeds $3,000.00, $50,000.00 and $1 million. Further, when violence or threats of violence are part of a Blackmail, crimes of this nature further ratchet up what might otherwise be a base level violation of New York Penal Law 155.30(6).

Without getting too lost in the weeds, this particular blog entry will address when words on their face may not clearly reflect an extortive intent, but circumstantially and practically establish a violation of Grand Larceny by Extortion.

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