Communications Fraud and Theft from a Utah School District

A southern Utah man was placed being bars Friday for communications fraud as well as theft after he installed audio and video equipment for a school district that was inferior to what they had purchased.

Not what they ordered

Communications Fraud

Photo by: MiNe

An investigation into Dustin Taylor, a former manager of a St. George company that sells audio and video systems began last year after the Washington County School District as well as a local theater company discovered that although they had ordered high quality equipment for their facilities, what ended up being installed was far lower value. Police discovered Taylor had been running his own business on the side and had allegedly taken the better equipment before installing it for a job contract through his side business. Taylor was arrested for communications fraud as well as multiple charges of theft.

Communications fraud

Utah Code 76-10-1801 states “Any person who has devised any scheme or artifice to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice is guilty of:

a) A class B misdemeanor when the value of the property ( . . . ) is less than $500;

b) A class A misdemeanor when the value ( . . . ) is [between $500 and $1,500];

c) A third degree felony when the value ( . . . ) is [between $1,500 and $5,000];

d) A second degree felony when the value of the property ( . . . ) exceeds $5,000.

The monetary loss of the customers who were defrauded by Taylor was estimated to be around $34,000.

Theft by deception

Not only did Taylor deceive customers by installing inferior equipment, but he took the high quality equipment from the company he was working for to install elsewhere without their knowledge. As Utah Code 76-6-405 states, he “obtain[ed] or exercise[d] control over property of another person: by deception; and with a purpose to deprive the other person of property.” The charges for theft by deception depend on the value of the item stolen and are identical to the charges by value for communications fraud. In Taylor’s case, the value of the audio and video equipment that Taylor had appropriated and resold or had in his possession was estimated to be as high as $89,000. This resulted in multiple theft charges; each being another second degree felony. Each second degree felony charge for communications fraud and theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Reduced sentencing for first-time offender

Photo by: Mark Strozier

Photo by: Mark Strozier

It is unknown whether Taylor intentionally concocted a plan to deceive the school district and other companies or if an opportunity to make more money fell into his lap and he thought no one would be the wiser. Either way, what he did was against the law and he risked spending nearly a lifetime in jail, especially if his sentences were to be run consecutively. Fortunately, Taylor had a clean record and was an outstanding citizen prior to his theft and communications fraud charges. This was likely his saving grace.

What a deal

As part of a plea deal that reduced his charges to third degree felonies, Taylor was sentenced for up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000 for communications fraud and five years each for multiple theft charges as well. The judge also ordered these to be run consecutively. Following this sentencing, the judge changed the sentencing to a single term of a five months and then even further reduced the prison term to 60 days for the 39 year old father of four. After his two months in jail which began Friday, Taylor is ordered to be on probation for three years and offer 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to write letters of apology to the customers he victimized. For multiple second degree felonies to end in a single two month prison sentence is incredible. The probable explanation for the judge’s mercy, beyond the obvious help of an experienced defense attorney, is likely due to Taylor’s lack of a criminal record prior to the communication fraud and theft charges. For anyone facing charges that seem too immense to handle, don’t lose hope until discussing what a criminal defense attorney can do for you.

Wrongful Appropriation – Borrowing without Permission

If someone is found to be borrowing property that doesn’t belong to them and does it without the owner’s permission it is known as wrongful appropriation.

Wrongful appropriation

Wrongful Appropriation

Photo by: Victor

Utah code 76-6-404.5 defines wrongful appropriation as when a person “obtains or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another, without the consent of the owner or legal custodian and with intent to temporarily appropriate, possess, or use the property or to temporarily deprive the owner or legal custodian of possession of the property.”

Borrowing without permission or theft?

Wrongful appropriation may sound a lot like stealing however the keyword that sets it apart from theft is the word “temporarily”. Although many cases of taking another’s belongings is done with the intent of never returning said property, occasionally the person accused of stealing can prove that their intention was to simply borrow the property on a temporary basis. When a person has been determined to not be permanently trying to deprive someone of their property but borrowing property without permission instead, Utah Code 76-6-404.5 states this crime to be “punishable one degree lower than theft.”

Wrongful Appropriation

Photo by: William Murphy

Examples of wrongful appropriation

Borrowing an item without permission may be hard to prove, but there are instances where the temporary intent may be more apparent such as:

• Borrowing a vehicle to quickly run an errand,

• Taking yard care equipment to use temporarily,

• Taking someone’s property as a practical joke, or

• Deviating from an assigned route in a government vehicle for personal motives.

Proving non consent

Sometimes when an item is borrow and relationships between the two parties go sour, the individual loaning the property, in an attempt to stir up trouble, may claim to have not given permission to the other. Having proof of the loan agreement would help protect the borrowing party from being unfairly charged with wrongful appropriation. Unless performed by a business however, a borrower’s agreement isn’t likely; for this reason it is recommended to seek counsel from a defense attorney for any charges of wrongful appropriation, whether true or not.

Felony Theft after Returning Found Property

A Draper, Utah man was arrested for felony theft after returning some property that he found in the middle of the road.

Debris from unsecured load

Felony Theft

Photo by: OiMax

47 year old Kent Spencer Dean was driving down 12300 South in Draper when he noticed a large power saw lying in the roadway. Not wanting an accident to result from the large item in the road, he quickly picked up the saw and placed it in the trunk of his car. Dean planned on finding the owner of the saw and returning it but first had to hurry to prior engagements he had including attending his daughter’s dance recital and a play with his family in Ogden.

Punishing a caring citizen

The 50 pound power saw that Dean had picked up belonged to the fire department and had fallen off an engine just moments before Dean noticed it in the road. Witnesses saw the event unfold and took down Dean’s license plate number for police. As Dean was going about his busy evening he received a phone call from the Draper Police Department inquiring about the saw. After stating what had happened while learning who the saw belonged to, Dean made arrangements to return the saw to the fire department later that evening. When he arrived, the fire department thanked him while the police department arrested him for felony theft of lost property.

Theft of lost property

Photo by: Nate Grigg

Photo by: Nate Grigg

The Draper Police Department was made aware of the circumstances surrounding Kent Dean’s temporary possession of the fire department’s saw and his plan of returning the lost item, however they were unwilling to drop the charges for felony theft of lost property. According to Utah Code 76-6-407, “A person commits theft [of lost property] when:
(1) He obtains property of another which he knows to have been lost or mislaid, or to have been
delivered under a mistake as to the identity of the recipient or as to the nature or amount of the
property, without taking reasonable measures to return it to the owner; and
(2) He has the purpose to deprive the owner of the property when he obtains the property or at any
time prior to taking the measures designated in paragraph (1).” (Emphasis added)
Sadly, it seems the Draper police assumed Dean intended on keeping the heavy, bulky saw; perhaps in the event that he one day might need to remove the roof off a vehicle.

Felony theft

While being accused with theft was bad enough, the charge was unfortunately increased to felony theft due to the high monetary value of the fire department’s saw. Utah Code 76-6-412 states that “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable ( . . . ) as a third degree felony if: the value of the property or services is or exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000;” The saw was valued at around $2,000. For trying to be a good citizen by removing a large item from the roadway that had a high chance of causing an accident, Dean could face up to five years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine.

Ignore or Act?

Photo by: Ms. Phoenix

Photo by: Ms. Phoenix

Kent Dean could have avoided felony theft charges had he chosen to leave the power saw in the road, blocking a lane of traffic on a busy street. Instead he chose to protect other drivers from a hazardous situation, which in turn may have also prevented the fire department from facing their own charges of having an unsecured load, a class C misdemeanor. Hopefully the criminal charged brought against Kent Dean will not dissuade another citizen from making the right choice if the event that they are ever faced with a similar situation.