Case Studies: Property Crimes

Teacher Avoids Conviction for Receiving Stolen Property in Antique Business

An elementary school teacher at a suburban New Jersey school retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after prosecutors charged her with receiving stolen property. The charges arose out of our client's antique business, which she maintained on the side outside of her teaching career. Our client rented first one and then two booths at an antique mall, where our client sold old and newer used items that she found at estate sales, online, garage sales, or curbside for trash pickup. The side work nicely supplemented our client's teacher income and provided income during summers when the school did not employ our client. Authorities charged our client after having monitored the antique mall in a fencing investigation, after owners of stolen items several times reported finding their items at the antique mall. Our client had been unaware of the investigation, not having had any issue with any item. But on this occasion, authorities had received simultaneous complaints from two victims of theft, reporting that they had discovered several items stolen from them in our client's booth. When our lead defense attorney appeared for our client's arraignment, the prosecutor indicated his intent to make a public example of our client to discourage further fencing of stolen items at the antique mall and similar locations. Our investigation showed that our client had purchased the items from an unidentified seller who had brought them to her antique booths. Our client, who was unfamiliar with laws against receiving stolen goods, would not have suspected any theft because the seller indicated that he was selling the goods because his mother had died and they were moving from the area. We negotiated a dismissal of the charges in exchange for a press release and story featuring our client on what to watch for in buying and selling potentially stolen property.

Fishing Enthusiast Avoids Shoplifting Conviction

A sport-fishing enthusiast, whose day job was real estate sales, retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after authorities arrested him on a shoplifting charge. Our client had gathered a basketful of expensive fishing gear he intended to purchase. Our client used a self-checkout station to move each item under the scanner and into shopping bags; paying for the items with a credit card, he slid into the machine after scanning the last item. Our client then paused at the door for the property control specialist to check his shopping bags and person. The specialist asked for our client's receipt and compared the bagged items with the receipt. When the receipt showed several expensive items not on the list of charges, the specialist moved our client to a nearby office while contacting the store manager, who then called the police. Our client maintained that he had tried to scan all items and believed that the machine had charged him for each item, although he admitted that he was surprised and pleased that the item total was so low. The officer took that statement as an admission of his knowledge and guilty intent, arresting our client for the shoplifting charge. Our defense approach focused on our client's lack of intent, showing that our client had attributed the low total to store specials the checkout machines often applied. Our client testified to that effect at trial, following which the jury acquitted him of the charge.

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