As a New York criminal attorneys who regularly defends clients against arrest, indictments, investigations and general allegations of theft and fraud, the most difficult cases we encounter are those that are supported by strong evidence of guilt (a/k/a potential proof beyond a reasonable doubt). For example, in a New York Grand Larceny by Embezzlement, a “paper” trail may lead directly to a client’s footsteps. If a crime was perpetrated on a computer, search warrants may reveal emails, log in information and even deleted files supporting the District Attorney’s Criminal Possession of Stolen Property or Forgery indictment. Whatever the crime and whatever the allegation, when evidence is overwhelming from a legal and factual standpoint, the mitigation defense is often the next weapon in your criminal lawyer’s arsenal. The following case result where our client was charged with the felonies of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (New York Penal Law 190.65), Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 155.35) and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 155.30) demonstrates how effective the mitigation defense may be to avoid incarceration or a felony conviction.
Saland Law’s PC’s client was arrested after a multi-month investigation and the execution of search warrants at our clients apartment and on our client’s computer. The investigation grew out of multiple complaints to building management in our client’s building and management’s own alleged observations that our client was renting an apartment to tourists and short term tenant (both via Craigslist and AirBnB). It was alleged that many of these potential tenants not only paid fees in the hundred and thousands of dollars to our client, but when time came to stay at the apartment either someone else was already renting the apartment or our client did not provide the renters with access. In short, law enforcement – the District Attorney’s Office and New York City Police Department – believed that our client was merely scheming money from unsuspecting people. In total, the indictment alleged only one “D” felony for an individual theft in excess of $3,000 and two “E” felonies for thefts in excess of $1,000 (but no more than $3,000) and an associated scheme to deprive multiple people of their money (one is guilty of First Degree Scheme to Defraud when one engages in a scheme constituting a systematic ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud more than one person or to obtain property from more than one person by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, and so obtains property with a value in excess of one thousand dollars from one or more such persons ). Although not reflected in the indictment, prosecutors believed our client cheated prospective tenants out of multiple tens of thousands of dollars.
Because email records, phone records, Craig’s List advertisements and Air B&B documentation reflected dozens of transactions, numerous individuals confirmed they were deceived and search warrants corroborated much of this activity, the case against Saland Law PC’s client was significant. In lieu of denying the allegations in their entirety (we did assert that there were genuine transactions and many individuals had already been compensated either through being paid back or put up in area hotels), a mitigation approach was deemed a stronger defense. To that end, our client paid or confirmed that our client had already paid back tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to the complainants both on and off the indictment. Further, we argued that what would cause an otherwise healthy individual with relative means to behave in such a manner? Without sharing the details of this defense, we also put our client on a path to prove to the prosecutor that our client was a candidate for a “second chance.”
As a result of our criminal lawyers’ advocacy, our client was allowed a downward departure on an indicted case where prosecutors spent time investigating and drafting search warrants over a period of months. While our New York criminal defense attorneys routinely set the bar high, we were unable to obtain a non-criminal disposition, but our client was permitted to plea to a Petit Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.25) and receive a conditional discharge. In substance, this means that our client pleaded to a misdemeanor (not a felony Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree or Grand Larceny in the Third or Fourth Degree), but our client also avoided incarceration, probation and community service. In fact, if a jury or judge convicted our client of the “E” felony or the “D” felony, our client would have faced up to four and seven years in state prison respectively while also having a scarring felony conviction.
Success is a relative term and unique to each case and circumstance. A full acquittal at trial was not necessarily in the cards for this client, but a reduction post-indictment in New York County Supreme Court from multiple felonies involving allegations of thousands of dollars in theft with the potential to increase the number of complainants and thefts to exceed tens of thousands of dollars was a successful resolution nonetheless.
To learn more about Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree or Scheme to Defraud, review the content contained on this blog as well as the website and blogs linked below.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense and white collar criminal defense firm representing clients in both State and Federal investigations, indictments and trials. Saland Law PC’s partners each served as prosecutors before establishing and joining the firm. Collectively, the members served in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and Main Justice.