As I have addressed in the past, theft of a credit card or debit card in New York City, and in any of the surrounding boroughs or counties, will result in (at least) the felony charge of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, NY Penal Law 155.30(4). Certainly anyone facing such a charge should consult with New York criminal defense attorney experienced in credit card crimes as the felony they would face is punishable by up to four years in prison. But what about credit card fraud (whatever that actually means!)? Will a perpetrator of credit card fraud be charged with a felony? Are there other charges that may accompany a credit card fraud charge? What evidence does the State of New York have to bring to prove credit card fraud? Let’s briefly address these questions here. After all, it is important to understand the seriousness of the charges a New Yorker can face if they perpetrate one of these crimes.
In New York, one of the crimes credit card fraud will result in is a charge of New York Penal Law 170.10(1) Forgery in the Second Degree. A “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison, Forgery in the Second Degree is a relatively common crime. You are guilty of Forgery in the Second Degree if you fraudulently sign the name of the actual holder of the credit card or debit card on a written instrument (i.e. the transaction receipt). Similar to theft of a credit or debit card, forgery in the second degree does not turn on the value of goods stolen (i.e. the items you purchased by signing the false name on the receipt). If you forged a signature without authority and with the intent to defraud the credit card company and/or the store (or the cardholder for that matter), then you are guilty of Forgery in the Second Degree. It is fairly scary that this one bogus signature has enormous criminal ramifications.
Moreover, such a Second Degree Forgery charge involving credit or debit card use is rarely prosecuted alone. If you have signed a false name (or scribbled what appeared to be a name) on the credit card you will also likely face the charge of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree NY Penal Law 170.25, also a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison. According to the New York Penal Law, “[a]person is guilty of [C]riminal [P]ossession of a [F]orged [I]nstrument in the [S]econd [D]egree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses any forged instrument.” Because that definition is not very helpful, the following will better illustrate this crime. Once you sign the credit card receipt, thereby committing Forgery in the Second Degree, you have created a completed forged instrument- the receipt with the forged signature. The key for the prosecution is to show that you intended to defraud the parties on the other end of the transaction- the store and the credit card company.
Does this sound a little confusing? Well, let’s examine a case that will serve as a good illustration of these two charges: People v. Lewandowski, 255 A.D.2d 902. The defendant used a corporate credit card from her former employer to purchase gasoline and food. The defendant signed the name of her brother, the vice-president of the corporation, although she no longer was working for the company and did not have the authorization to use that card. There were two credit card receipts with a forged signature (she possessed the forged instrument!). Therefore, the defendant was convicted of Forgery in the Second Degree pursuant to NY P.L. 170.10(1) and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree pursuant to NY P.L. 170.25. Although the value of the gasoline and food was low, Ms. Lewandowski still faced a felony charge because forged the theft involved credit card fraud. The only issue on appeal was whether the defendant’s confession was a complete statement of guilt, and because it was corroborated with the brother’s testimony the appellate division ruled that there was sufficient evidence to uphold the conviction.
This case is a standard example of credit card fraud that occurs in New York, which can result in a conviction of Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. If you sign a false name on a receipt with a credit card or debit card purchase you have committed a felony (regardless of the value of property taken!) under New York law. As much as I wish I could say we are all done, there are two more points that are worth noting. Frist, if you criminal attorney is knowledgeable about these statutes, ask him or her whether or not you can be convicted of forging the same forged instrument you are also alleged to possess. Second, it’s important to understand that often time the type of Forgery mentioned above is the basis of another serious felony. Identity Theft in the First Degree (NY P.L. 190.80), also a “D” felony, is that offense.
To better educate, and defend, yourself against credit card fraud related crimes, follow the highlighted links above. Further New York criminal law and criminal defense resources maintained by Saland Law PC include:
New-York-Lawyers.org: A complete New York criminal defense website addressing countless criminal statutes in the white collar, street crime, violent crime, weapon crimes, vehicular crime, property crime and desk appearance tickets arena. Content also addresses the arrest process.
NYDeskAppearanceTicket.Com: A website a dedicated to misdemeanor offenses and desk appearance tickets in New York City. NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com: A website with substantial materials on New York’s theft and larceny crimes from shoplifting and embezzlement to extortion and credit card theft.
NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com: A blog containing insight and analysis not only on criminal statutes found in the New York Penal Law, but legal decisions interpreting those crimes and cases playing out in the New York City area media.
NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyersBlog.Com: Similar to the blog above that exclusively addresses white-collar theft crimes.
Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent those accused of crimes through the New York City region.