Theft by Deception

Numerous individuals are skilled enough with their words to make others believe anything they say; however if they use this skill of trickery and lies to cheat another person, they could face charges of theft by deception.

Theft by deception

Photo by: David Goehring

Photo by: David Goehring

According to Utah Code 76-6-405 : “A person commits theft [by deception] if the person obtains or exercises control over the property of another person: by deception; and with a purpose to deprive the other person of the property.” Theft by deception only applies if the item has “pecuniary [monetary] significance.”

Semi honest ads

From a business’ point of view, theft by deception may appear legal seeing how the victim willingly hands over their money for an item or service. Most sales promotions, ads, and commercials made by businesses have exaggerated deals, which are usually excused as “puffing” or overstatements that wouldn’t fool the common Joe. However going overboard and outright lying about conditions or products may bring charges of theft by deception.

Taking advantage of gullible people

Theft by deception can be as simple as getting someone to believe that they have to give up an item or money. There are many people out there that will take another person on their word. Taking advantage of these overly trusting individuals and tricking them out of a belonging or funds is against the law. Utah Code 76-6-404 states, “A person commits theft if he obtains or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another with a purpose to deprive him thereof.” When someone is tricked out of an item or funds, the party who made a fool of the victim was intentionally trying to “deprive him”, and therefore by law- committed theft.

Resist deceiving others

Theft by deception can carry different fines and penalties. The charges depend on the item involved, the amount (or worth), and whether or not this is a subsequent offense. With all these factors to consider, theft by deception could range from a class B misdemeanor to a 2nd degree felony. Any persons facing charges of theft by deception are encouraged to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Charity Fraud

A person or business may be guilty of charity fraud if they take donations from others based on information that is false or misleading.

Million dollar charity fraud

Photo by: zack McCarthy

Photo by: zack McCarthy

In May of 2015, ringleaders of four deceptive cancer charities were found guilty of charity fraud after authorities discovered $187 million dollars had been swindled out of generous donators. These four companies sought out donations over the course of four years through telephone, mail, and the internet. Altruistic contributors donated to these four charities whose names bared a close resemblance to well-known organizations. The Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society were all fraudulent businesses run by executives who pocketed 97 percent of the donated proceeds. Although their charity fraud has been discovered, most of the money is gone and will never be returned to the donators or contributed properly.

Charity fraud on a smaller level

Not every case of charity fraud involves millions of dollars in nationwide corruption. Charity fraud can happen locally and at a smaller monetary level. Earlier this month, a Logan Utah man was arrested for receiving funds regarding a phony GoFundMe story he created. The Logan man used a picture he found on the internet of a female cancer patient and made up a false story about a young boy dying of cancer who didn’t actually exist. It isn’t known how much money he acquired fraudulently but he was charged with communications fraud for his role in the bogus charity page. Ten months earlier in the same city of Logan, 26 year old Lesley Jensen collected over $20K through combined donations on a GoFundMe page and a charity event put on by her compassionate employers. The reason for the charity was to help Jensen with monitory support for her and her daughter while Jensen battled a rare form of brain cancer. Fortunately for Jensen, unfortunately for those who gave her money, Jensen didn’t actually have brain cancer. She was just willing to take advantage of those who cared about her. She was later charged with nine different felonies related to her charity fraud: Five counts of communications fraud, and four counts of forgery for altering medical documents.

Motives for deception

Photo by: Steven Depolo

Photo by: Steven Depolo

There are many duplicitous companies around the nation that prey on the willingness of individuals to donate to a cause; however some situations of charity fraud may be due to accidental misinformation or duress.
• The point of a charity is to emphasize on a true hardship, often medical. Some exaggerate their suffering a bit too far, stating that their state of misfortune is worse than it actually is. Often these can be cases of tall tales gone completely out of hand, or of hypochondriacs who truly believe they are dying of a common illness.
• Others who choose to commit charity fraud may feel that they have no other options than to take from others. Perhaps they see no way out of their poor financial circumstances and being too embarrassed to ask friends and family for help, they create a situation in where they someone would be worthy of help.
• Businesses that take on charity ventures might oversee how much it takes to run a “non-profit” business. They may originally state that a higher percentage of donations are going to their cause and end up using the majority of the funds to hire employees or rent office space. This difference in percentage can be assumed charity fraud when it’s nothing more than poor management of company funds.

Charitable Solicitations Act

Most states have a version of the Charitable Solicitations Act to protect those donating to charities and charitable companies from false accusations. There are detailed rules and regulations that charities must follow in order to be in accordance with the law. Any individual or business who is planning on creating or supporting a charity should educate themselves with the Charitable Solicitations Act (Utah Code 13-22) before continuing. For those who are facing communications fraud or other charges related to charity fraud, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor

56 year old St. George Utah resident James Allen Matlock was arrested this weekend for unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-17 year old minor.

Indecent liberties

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff

Unlawful sexual conduct can be regarding one or more inappropriate circumstances, but not necessarily sex. According to Matlock’s booking report, his charges of unlawful sexual conduct were listed as statute: 76-5-401.2(2)(IV) which is defined by Utah Code as a crime where the suspect “touches the anus, buttocks, or any part of the genitals of the minor, or touches the breast of a female minor, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with the minor […].”

Unlawful sexual conduct in a dressing room

The charges stem from an incident that happened during the summer at a store in the Red Cliffs Mall. A 17 year old teenage girl was shopping in Victoria’s Secret, a store known for its provocative lingerie, when she entered the dressing room along with the suspect. It is unknown whether or not the victim knew 56 year old James Allen Matlock was accompanying her into the dressing room, but she stated she did not give consent for any unlawful sexual conduct to take place.

Charges for touching an older teenager inappropriately

Had the teenager given consent, as some older teenagers do, Matlock would still have charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-17 year old because of the age gap between him and the teenager. Utah code 76-5-401.2 states that an adult who is more than seven years older than the teenager may face charges for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Know the age gap

With the almost 40 year age gap between Matlock and the victim, there wasn’t that gray area that can happen between young adults and teenagers that look older than they are. However, if a 24 year old is dating someone that looks 19 but is actually only 16, they could face charges of unlawful sexual conduct unless they were unaware of the teenager’s age. The state allows some wiggle room with this law regarding 16-17 year olds, but only up to 10 years (7 years if the age of the teenager was known). The safest bet is to know the age of the person with whom you are romantically involved, and to stay within the lawful age limits to prevent any possible charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. For those who are facing charges associated to relations with a minor, contact a criminal defense attorney.