Obtaining money or property by false pretenses is a larceny crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, and both carry harsh sentences. If you have been arrested for false pretenses, take advantage of our offer of a free consultation to learn how our skilled and dedicated legal team can build a strong defense to the charges you face so that you can achieve the best possible outcome.
What Is the Crime of Obtaining Money or Property by False Pretenses?
Virginia Code § 18.2-178 defines what constitutes the offense of obtaining money or property by false pretenses. It involves the intent to defraud the owner of money or property and makes it a crime to use false pretenses or a token with the intent to defraud to obtain money, a gift certificate, or other property.
In Virginia, false pretenses generally involves the use of misrepresentations, lies, deception, tricks, and false promises. There are four elements to the crime of obtaining money or property by false pretenses:
- The accused had the intent to defraud one or more individuals.
- The accused committed an actual fraud on one or more individuals.
- False pretenses were used to commit the fraud.
- The false pretenses, at least in part, caused the individual to give up his property or money.
This crime is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of the money or property is less than $200. If the value is $200 or more, the offense is a Class 4 felony.
Obtaining a Signature Under False Pretenses Is a Separate Offense
Virginia Code § 18.2-178 also makes it a criminal offense to use false pretenses or tokens to obtain the signature of a person where the false making of the signature would be considered forgery. Obtaining a signature by false pretenses is charged as a Class 4 felony no matter the value of the property or money illegally obtained.
Examples of What Is Considered Obtaining Money or Property by False Pretenses
There are many fraudulent actions that would be considered a crime under Virginia Code § 18.2-178. Some examples include:
- Paying for goods or services with a check and stopping payment on the check
- Using a fraudulent bank withdrawal slip form for another person’s bank account
- Pretending to be a utility company employee offering to help an individual open up an online account
- Sending an email to an individual pretending to be a credit card company in order to obtain his financial information
Penalties for Obtaining Property or Money by False Pretenses
You may face a harsher sentence if you are convicted of obtaining property or money by false pretenses other than larceny crimes because of the deception involved in this crime. Your punishment may include:
- Misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the sentence may be up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Felony. A conviction of a Class 4 felony can result in you being sentenced to prison for up to 20 years and/or being fined up to $2,500.
If you have previously been convicted of false pretenses or another larceny, your first false pretense charge may be treated as a second offense and result in a harsher sentence. The punishment you may face is 30 days up to 12 months in jail.
You may also face enhanced penalties for a second false pretense conviction if you have other larceny crimes on your criminal record. It may be charged as a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine.
Have you been charged with obtaining money or property by false pretenses? Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers represent clients facing these and other charges throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. To discuss your situation and possible defenses we can raise to fight the charges you face, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.