Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York forged instrument case involving the possession of what turned out to be counterfeit money. The case provided the court with the opportunity to discuss the elements that must be established to convict a defendant for possession of counterfeit currency in New York.
According to the court’s opinion, a police officer observed the defendant in front of a haunted house attraction. The defendant had an unmarked brown paper bag in his hand, and was drinking something from a can or bottle contained in the bag. As the officer approached, the defendant ran. Believing the bag to hold a prohibited alcoholic beverage, the police officer gave chase. Upon catching the defendant, the officer found two bags of crack cocaine and currency in the defendant’s pockets.
The currency was divided into two pockets. In one pocket was a loose wad of bills totaling $148. In the other pocket was a wad of 17 bills bound together by a rubber band. After taking a closer look at the wad of 17 bills, the officer suspected that they were counterfeit, and the defendant later admitted that they were counterfeit.
At trial, the prosecution presented a Secret Service agent as an expert witness. The agent identified the bills as counterfeit, and explained that those in possession of counterfeit bills often keep the counterfeit bills separate from their other currency. The defense objected, but did not provide a basis for the objection. The agent admitted on cross-examination that he had never made “low-level street arrests” for counterfeit currency.
The court explained that, a defendant is guilty of possession of counterfeit currency “when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses any forged instrument.” The court noted that the mens rea, or intent, element of the crime requires that a defendant have knowledge that the instrument is forged and the intent to defraud another; however, there is no requirement that the defendant attempt to use the currency.
Here, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to find that the defendant intended to defraud by way of the counterfeit bills. The court noted the number of bills, and the fact that they were bound separately from legitimate currency, indicated an intent to defraud. Similarly, the court found that the defendant’s presence in a busy area of Manhattan, where tourists were known to visit, further indicated an intent to defraud. Thus, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Fraud Crime?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with any New York fraud offense, contact the experienced New York criminal defense lawyers at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients in all types of serious criminal matters, including fraud, forgery, and other complex financial crimes. Our attorneys are dedicated to the practice of criminal law, and proudly represent clients in state and federal court. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today, call 877-377-8666 today.