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Torah Crowns Stolen from Young Israel Synagogue of Queens Valley: Potential Crimes & Arrest Charges for Stolen Religious Property

According to the New York Daily News, a yarmulke sporting thief allegedly stole two “torah crowns” from Young Israel of Queens Valley. Posing as a congregant, it is alleged that the unapprehended varmit’s ill gotten gains netted him in excess of $1,000. Assuming the alleged perpetrator of this synagogue theft is ultimately caught, what potential crimes could he face?

One of the first thing that prosecutors do in any theft case is ascertain the value of the stolen property. Once the aggregate value of stolen property from one victim exceeds $1,000 (and is $3,000 or less as in this case), Assistant District Attorney know that they have a Fourth Degree Grand Larceny felony. More specifically, adding the value of the two torah crowns together, prosecutors will have on charge of New York Penal Law 155.30(1). While the theft of an individual torah crown may only be a misdemeanor Petit Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.25), the aggregation law allows law enforcement to pursue felony Grand Larceny prosecutions where there are multiple thefts over any period of time and from the same complainant.

In addition to subsection one (1) of NY PL 155.30, prosecutors may also be able to charge a little known crime. According to NY PL 155.30(9), if the property stolen is a “scroll, religious vestment, vessel or other item of property having a value of at least one hundred dollars kept for or used in connection with religious worship in any building or structure used as a place of religious worship by a religious corporation,” then the theft becomes an automatic felony. Under this theory of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, instead of of having one aggregated crime, there are two distinct offenses for each religious item stolen. While a torah crown likely does not fit the definition of a scroll, vestment or even a vessel, the law provides a catch all category of “other item” that likely would apply.

In the event that the police recover the property (and arguably even if they do not), prosecutors can charge the alleged torah crown-napper with felony Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree. The applicable sections of New York Penal Law 165.45 are NY PL 165.45(1) for the aggregate value and NY PL 165.45(6) for the religious property in the offender’s possession.

Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree are both “E” felonies. These crimes may be punished by up to four years in prison regardless of one’s criminal history.

Beyond Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, prosecutors may also be able to charge a Burglary offense as well. If one does not have permission or authority to enter a building and does so with the intent to commit a crime (prosecutors need not prove the actual completion of a crime), a defendant may be arrested for Burglary in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 140.20). This crime is more serious than Fourth Degree Grand Larceny and Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property.

Third Degree Burglary is a “D” felony and is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years in prison for anyone convicted of this crime.

Are there other crimes that could ultimately be charged should the alleged thief be arrested? Certainly. However, these are the likely minimum offenses the “Young Israel Thief” will face. Making things more problematic for this man, while he may or may not face the wrath of G-d, he certainly will be visited by the firm hand of the District Attorney’s Office.

To learn about the variety, types and degrees of larceny and theft crimes in New York, review the statutes linked above or go directly to our websites and blogs linked below. There you will find original content analyzing the New York criminal law and the legal decisions that interpret it.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm. Established by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York Grand Larceny defense attorneys at Saland Law PC represent clients for all theft related crimes throughout New York City and the immediate suburban region.

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