As a NY White Collar criminal defense attorney and a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, I have prosecuted or defended Grand Larcenies well into the millions of dollars. One issue that often reared and rears it’s head as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer was whether or not in a Grand Larceny prosecution involving numerous victims, the multiple thefts could be combined to increase the level of the offense. In other words, can the prosecutors aggregate the total loss and theft from all the victims and add it up as one count of Grand Larceny as opposed to multiple lesser larceny charges?
Generally, New York courts have ruled that aggregation is acceptable “[as] long as the larceny is held to be pursuant to a single intent, and one complete, illegal scheme, [and] it matters not the length of the period over which the takings continued.” People v. Cox, 286 N.Y. 137, 142, 36 N.E.2d 84 (1941). This principle, however, has generally been applied to multiple larcenies involving the same individual.
Although the above ruling is still applicable today, prosecutors are pushing the legal envelope to increase their ability to charge more significant levels of Grand Larceny. If the prosecution is successful in doing so, they can take what may be viewed as five separate “D” felonies of $10,000, for example, and charge the defendant with one “C” felony of $50,000. What was once five separate crimes punishable by up to seven years in state prison would become a one crime punishable by up to fifteen years in state prison.
Merely wanting to increase the potential crime and its punishment, however, does not make it permissible in the eyes of the law. Although no definitive answer exists as to whether or not the prosecution is permitted to aggregate in this fashion, many lower courts have allowed it. In fact, a Bronx County Supreme Court Justice found that “while no appellate court has set forth a standard for determining when larcenies from different victims may be aggregated, no decision has held that such aggregation is never permitted. This court’s view is that the principles underlying the aggregation doctrine of People v. Cox, permit aggregation where the larcenies from different victims do not occur at a single place and time where the separate victims are sufficiently related to each other and to the properties taken as to be considered, in the eyes of the law, a single victim.”
Regardless of this particular ruling, prosecutors will understandably push the bounds of the law as they are faced with new schemes involving Grand Larceny. Yet, a prosecutor’s interest in protecting the public is no greater than a criminal defense attorney’s interest – and obligation – to protect his client’s rights and make sure laws are followed and the prosecutor’s burden is met. The criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC know this and are prepared to review each case and implement a unique plan to make sure those rights are not violated and the prosecution follows the letter of the law.