When someone commits the crime of false pretenses, they misrepresent a fact or facts in order to obtain another person’s property. To be found guilty of false pretenses, it must be shown that the defendant acquired the property by intentionally misstating a fact. New York punishes theft of property by false pretenses as a larceny crime.
- State Penalties:
New York law classifies larceny crimes according to the monetary value of the property stolen. Petit larceny, or petty theft, occurs when the property stolen under false pretenses is valued at no more than $1,000. Petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000. If the property stolen is worth more than $1,000 or happens to be a vehicle, credit / debit card, and other specified property types the offense is grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class E felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000 or double the amount made from the theft, whichever is greater. Stealing property worth over $3,000 is grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000 or double the amount made from the theft, whichever is greater. If the property stolen exceeds $50,000 in value, the crime is grand larceny in the second degree, a class C felony that carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison, and a fine not to exceed $15,000. Stealing property valued at over one million dollars is grand larceny in the first degree, a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison, and a fine of up to $30,000.
- When is the best time to act?:
Theft via false pretenses, like most larceny crimes, has no minimum sentence for a first time offender, so a lengthy prison term could result from a conviction. Beyond potential prison and fines, the collateral consequences of a felony conviction include damaged career prospects and jeopardized immigration status. Anyone charged with obtaining property via false pretenses needs to obtain expert advice from a New York criminal defense attorney right away.
- High profile/Government cases:
In July 2014 celebrity dermatologist Dr. Cheryl Karcher, 56, appeared at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan to answer multiple charges in a 50-count indictment. Among them were drug possession, falsifying business records, selling prescriptions, and fraud. She was accused of using the names of former patients to obtain drugs like Percocet under false pretenses. The indictment was the result of a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Agency and New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor.
- Related Crimes:
Criminal possession of stolen property, embezzlement, forgery, fraudulent accosting, grand larceny, petit larceny, scheme to defraud
- Successful Defenses:
Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to knowingly commit an illegal act can all be presented as defenses. If someone obtains another person’s property by stating a fact that they erroneously believe to be true, they have not committed the crime of false pretenses.
- Difference between New York state and Federal statutes:
Larceny through false pretenses is prosecuted as a federal offense when it occurs at the corporate and government levels. Examples include embezzlement of public funds and defrauding a corporation of money or property. Unlike New York state law, federal law does not assess a crime by the value of the property stolen. If convicted, a person can spend up to five years in federal prison and / or be fined between $5,000 - $10,000 for each offense.