What started as an attempt to purchase merchandise at a grocery store using
a forged check, later turned into multiple felony convictions for a Southern
California man. On May 28th, 2010, Mr. A. Falls entered a Vons store in
Lake Elsinore, California, selected a number of items, including cigarettes,
and made his way to the checkout stand. From there, things fell apart
for Mr. Falls.
According to a published opinion by the California State Court of Appeal,
Fourth Appellate District, Mr. Falls was convicted of making, passing
or possessing a fraudulent check with intent to defraud (California Penal
Code §476); possessing a completed check with intent to utter and
pass the check in order to defraud (Penal Code §475(c)); and second
degree burglary (Penal Code §459). Mr. Falls appealed his conviction,
arguing that §476 and §475 both constitute forgery and that
he should not have been convicted of both crimes for his single act of forgery.
At trial, the Vons clerk testified that on May 28th, 2010, he was working
as a cashier and contacted Mr. Falls during checkout. Mr. Falls wrote
a check to cover the amount of $185.26 and handed the completed check
to the cashier. Unfortunately for Mr. Falls, the cashier had a second
job as a bank teller and was experienced in recognizing fraudulent checks.
The cashier testified that he asked Mr. Falls about the check and Mr. Falls
responded that his bank allowed him to print checks online. With his suspicion
aroused, the cashier asked Mr. Falls for identification. Mr. Falls stated
that his ID was in his vehicle and left to get it.
Mr. Falls returned five minutes later and presented a completed check to
the cashier, who noticed the name F. Leon, printed on the check. The cashier
again asked for Mr. Falls' identification, but the would-be thief
acted as if he could not extract the ID from his wallet. The cashier even
offered to help Mr. Falls retrieve the ID, but Mr. Falls refused. The
cashier testified that he was able to see Mr. Falls' ID card, which
looked to be printed on paper and did not bear the same name as that which
was printed on the check.
Nonetheless, the cashier then scanned the dubious check through the store's
computer check reader, and determined the check to be fraudulent. The
cashier told Mr. Falls that he could not accept the check as payment.
Mr. Falls left the store, without his check, and the cashier followed
him into the parking lot, writing down the license plate number of Mr.
Falls' vehicle, which later led the police into contacting Mr. Falls
during the criminal investigation.
Further investigation revealed that the account number on the fraudulent
check belonged to a husband and wife, whose checking account had been
compromised. The couple testified that they did not know Mr. Falls and
did not give him permission to use their account information.
Although Penal Code §475(c) and §476 are both forgery statutes,
they each contain elements which make them separate crimes, thus leading
to Mr. Falls' conviction on each count. It was the prosecutor's
theory that the defendant committed a violation of §476 when he
attempted to pass the check and a violation of section §475(c) when he
possessed that check. This may seem trivial, but in its decision, the Court cited
Penal Code §954, which states that
"An accusatory pleading may charge two or more different offenses
connected together in their commission." In other words, while Mr. Falls committed the single act of presenting
the forged and fraudulent check, in doing so he fulfilled the elements
of two separate crimes (§476 and §475(c).
In addition, Mr. Falls was also convicted of burglary (§459), which
states among its elements that a burglary occurs when any person enters
a building or business with
intent to commit any theft or felony. It was clear that Mr. Falls entered the
Vons store with the intent to commit the felonious passing of the forged check.
If you have been charged with forgery, burglary or any felony,
contact the professional and experienced Law Office of Nic Cocis and Associates,
which serves clients in Murrieta and the neighboring communities of Temecula,
Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Banning, Hemet, Corona and Riverside,