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Theft by Deception

February 24, 2016 | Posted In Criminal Law

Everyone knows that telling lies is wrong, but in certain circumstances, a “little white lie” or an embellishment of the truth is easier to swallow. Most people have been in situations where the truth can be devastating and can have serious negative consequences, so telling a little lie might curb those consequences in the short-term.

Still, when someone tells a lie not to smooth over an unpleasant truth or to avoid getting in trouble, but to deceive and take something from another person, the law will step in.

Theft by deception is considered a crime in New Jersey, and it is a crime in which the thief lies for the purpose of obtaining another person’s property and/or lies to engage in deceptive conduct contrary to the state’s laws. In short, theft by deception happens when one person takes another person’s possession or property by lying or creating false impressions.

What You Need to Know About Theft by Deception

According to New Jersey N.J.S.A 2C:20-4, a person can be charged with theft if the theft occurs through any of the following methods:

  1. The thief creates a false impression about his or her intentions, the laws, value, or other mental state. This includes collecting money for a fake charity or fake medical condition, or lying about the use of funds offered.
  2. The thief hides information that would alter the intended victim’s perception of him or her. In the case of raising money to cover costs for a fake illness, the thief hides medical records that indicate a clean bill of health, for example.
  3. The thief fails to correct false impressions that were purposely created. Again, in the case of a fake illness, the thief allows people to believe that he or she is suffering from cancer or another malady in order to raise money and does not correct their assumptions.

A person might be charged with theft by deception for any of the following offenses:

  • Filing a fraudulent insurance claim
  • Fraudulently receiving benefits from government assistance programs
  • Misrepresenting property to receive loans
  • Accepting payment for work that is never done
  • Writing bad checks
  • Collecting funds for fake charities, illnesses, causes, etc.

Based on the methods outlined above, the theft by deception statute only deals with people who are attempting to obtain money or items of monetary value. Soliciting prayers for a fake illness, while not collecting or accepting donations, for example, is not considered theft by deception.

Theft by deception charges are aggregated. If you are facing charges for a particular instance of theft that is part of an ongoing fraud, you could be charged for each instance individually, or you could be charged for the combined (aggregate) amount of theft.  That combined amount could lead to a higher degree of theft charges which could result in the possibility of more severe penalties, including more prison time or enhanced fines.

It’s important to know the extent of your charges and what you could be facing at trial if you’ve been accused of criminal activity. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey criminal defense law firm, we represent anyone who has been charged with theft by deception or any other criminal offense. For a free, no-strings consultation on your case, contact our defense attorneys today.

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