Interviewer: When people refer to theft by deception, is that along the lines of fraudulent or scams or something like that?
Court Koehler: Yes. Theft by deception and fraud, they are separate charges but fraud is where you take something from somebody or you get some sort of gain from a misrepresentation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actually stealing something, they can be giving you something willingly. For instance, if you are a con artist and you have some sort of scheme where you have people giving you money, like a Ponzi scheme, it’s not a theft because they are giving you the money willingly but its fraud. That’s what the difference is. Theft by deception is almost like fraud; in that, what you’re doing is you’re using some sort of a deception to cause somebody to give you something or to allow you to take something that is theft but you are doing it sort of in the open as opposed to stealing something from the store. It is very similar to fraud, yes.
People Generally Feel that They’ve been Cheated if their Expectations are not Met
Interviewer: Do you think a lot of people are quick to want to accuse people of theft or fraud? Do people always feel like they have been cheated if they are unsatisfied with something?
Court Koehler: That it is that element around for sure. I don’t know how common it is. I’ll tell you a little bit about the way those sorts of criminal charges work. In Utah and this is different in each state. Each state has its own particular way of doing things. In some states a citizen has the right to bring criminal charges against somebody else or at least to do so through the prosecutor to sort of force the prosecutor to file charges and that’s the minority but there are states where that can happen. In most states and in Utah an individual cannot press charges against somebody else, so the classic movie line where somebody says, “I am going press charges against you”, is actually usually not really much of a threat because an individual does not have the power to press charges against somebody else.
Generally a Complaint of Cheating in a Financial Transaction Results in a Civil Suit
The best that you could do is you could report it to the police, and then the police can send that report on to the prosecuting agency wherever you are. Then they would review the case and if they felt that there was enough there to convict somebody or charge them with the crime, they may do so. But when you have had he-said, she-said things without a lot of evidence with murky circumstances, you are probably not going to end up with a criminal charge that comes out of that. More typically, when people are complaining about something where they feel like they were cheated or defrauded, you would probably see a civil suit but not a criminal suit.
Knowingly Acquiring a Stolen or Hot Item Can Result in Receiving Stolen Property Charges
Interviewer: What is theft of lost property? Does that mean the item is going to be stolen or is it a hot product or something like that?
Court Koehler: Yes. In Utah, we call it possession of stolen property or use of stolen property and that is also similar to what might be called theft by conversion in some other states. The old English way of saying legally that you take someone’s property is conversion, so that’s where that language comes from. They typically don’t use that kind of language in the modern day but that where it comes from. Utah and a lot of other states have changed it to receiving stolen property or use of stolen property and that is where you have something was stolen from a person, typically from an individual. So if you stole a bike or you stole some clothing or burglarized a house, the person that then subsequently takes that property could be charged with receiving stolen property or use of stolen property. That charge is meant to cover people who are knowingly purchasing or accepting as a gift, property that is stolen. If your friend comes up to you with a really good deal on a watch and you know that it’s stolen and you buy it, then that’s actually a crime.
Charges of Receiving Stolen Property are Not Easy for the Prosecutors to Prove
Interviewer: In a situation where I’ve purchased a hot product like an iPhone 6 or a laptop or that could be tracked and I got it from a flea market; could I be facing charges like that?
Court Koehler: Yes. It’s definitely a possibility. Of course there’s always a question of whether you can be charged and then there’s the question of whether it’s a charge that’s going to stick so to speak. Depending on the situation, it may be really difficult for a prosecutor to prove that you knowingly received stolen property, it’s one of those charges that is really difficult for them to prove. They have to show that you had knowledge that the property was stolen and a lot of times, evidence of that is just hard to come by unless somebody makes a confession.