Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

About

This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

Instructions

Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

On appeal from the decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 802 S.E.2d 508 (2017), the court reversed, holding that the obtaining property by false pretenses indictment was not defective and that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction on that charge.

(1) The obtaining property by false pretenses indictment, that described the property obtained as “United States Currency” was not fatally defective. The indictment charged the defendant with two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, alleging that the defendant, through false pretenses, knowingly and designedly obtained “United States Currency from Cash Now Pawn” by conveying specifically referenced personal property, which he represented as his own. The indictment described the personal property used to obtain the money as an Acer laptop, a Vizio television, a computer monitor, and jewelry. An indictment for obtaining property by false pretenses must describe the property obtained in sufficient detail to identify the transaction by which the defendant obtained money. Here, the indictment sufficiently identifies the crime charged because it describes the property obtained as “United States Currency” and names the items conveyed to obtain the money. As such, the indictment is facially valid; it gave the defendant reasonable notice of the charges against him and enabled him to prepare his defense. The transcript makes clear that the defendant was not confused at trial regarding the property conveyed. Had the defendant needed more detail to prepare his defense, he could have requested a bill of particulars. In so holding the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment was fatally defective for failing to allege the amount of money obtained by conveying the items.

(2) The State presented sufficient evidence of the defendant’s false representation that he owned the stolen property to support his conviction for obtaining property by false pretenses. The pawnshop employee who completed the transaction verified the pawn tickets, which described the conveyed items and contained the defendant’s name, address, driver’s license number, and date of birth. The tickets included language explicitly stating that the defendant was “giving a security interest in the . . . described goods.” On these facts, the State presented sufficient evidence of the defendant’s false representation that he owned the stolen property that he conveyed.

(per curiam). Because the participating Justices were equally divided, the decision below, State v. Pendergraft, 238 N.C. App. 516 (Dec. 31, 2014), was left undisturbed and without precedential value. In the decision below the court of appeals had held, over a dissent, that an indictment alleging obtaining property by false pretenses was not fatally defective. After the defendant filed false documents purporting to give him a property interest in a home, he was found to be occupying the premises and arrested. The court of appeals rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment was deficient because it failed to allege that he made a false representation. The indictment alleged that the false pretense consisted of the following: “The defendant moved into the house … with the intent to fraudulently convert the property to his own, when in fact the defendant knew that his actions to convert the property to his own were fraudulent.” Acknowledging that the indictment did not explicitly charge the defendant with having made any particular false representation, the court of appeals found that it “sufficiently apprise[d] the defendant about the nature of the false representation that he allegedly made,” namely that he falsely represented that he owned the property as part of an attempt to fraudulently obtain ownership or possession of it. The court of appeals also rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment was defective in that it failed to allege the existence of a causal connection between any false representation by him and the attempt to obtain property, finding the charging language sufficient to imply causation.

State v. Jones, 367 N.C. 299 (Mar. 7, 2014)

(1) Affirming the decision below in State v. Jones, 223 N.C. App. 487 (Nov. 20, 2012), the court held that an indictment charging obtaining property by false pretenses was defective where it failed to specify with particularity the property obtained. The indictment alleged that the defendant obtained “services” from two businesses but did not describe the services. (2) The court also held that an indictment charging trafficking in stolen identities was defective because it did not allege the recipient of the identifying information or that the recipient’s name was unknown.

An indictment charging obtaining property by false pretenses was defective where it charged the defendant with obtaining an unspecified amount of “credit” secured through the issuance of an unidentified “loan” or “credit card.” This vague language failed to describe what was obtained with sufficient particularity to enable the defendant to adequately prepare a defense. A grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. The indictment for the first count charged that the defendant “obtain[ed] credit, from Weyco.” The indictments for the second and third counts charged that the defendant “obtain[ed] credit, from Weyco” and that “this property was obtained by means of giving false information on an application for a loan so as to qualify for said loan which loan was made to defendant.” The court concluded:

[I]ndictments charging a defendant with obtaining “credit” of an unspecified amount, secured through two unidentified “loan[s]” and a “credit card” are too vague and uncertain to describe with reasonable certainty what was allegedly obtained, and thus are insufficient to charge the crime of obtaining property by false pretenses. “Credit” is a term less specific than money, and the principle that monetary value must at a minimum be described in an obtaining-property-by-false-pretenses indictment extends logically to our conclusion that credit value must also be described to provide more reasonable certainty of the thing allegedly obtained in order to enable a defendant adequately to mount a defense. Moreover, although the indictments alleged defendant obtained that credit through “loan[s]” and a “credit card,” they lacked basic identifying information, such as the particular loans, their value, or what was loaned; the particular credit card, its value, or what was obtained using that credit card.

It continued:

Because the State sought to prove that defendant obtained by false pretenses a $14,399 secured vehicle loan for the purchase of a Suzuki motorcycle and a $56,736 secured vehicle loan for the purchase of a Dodge truck, the indictments should have, at a minimum, identified these particular loans, described what was loaned, and specified what actual value defendant obtained from those loans. Because the State sought also to prove that defendant obtained the Credit Card by false pretenses, that indictment should have, at a minimum, identified the particular credit card and its account number, its value, and described what defendant obtained using that credit.

Over a dissent, the court held that an obtaining property by false pretenses indictment was not defective where it alleged that the defendant obtained “a quantity of U.S currency” from the defendant. The court found that G.S. 15-149 (allegations regarding larceny of money) supported its holding. 

(1) In a case involving charges of obtaining property by false pretenses arising out of alleged insurance fraud, the defendant waived the issue of fatal variance by failing to raise it at trial. (2) Counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to move to dismiss on grounds of fatal variance. The indictment alleged that the defendant submitted fraudulent invoices for pet boarding services by Meadowsweet Pet Boarding which caused the insurance company to issue payment to her in the amount of $11,395.00. The evidence at trial, however, showed that the document at issue was a valid estimate for future services, not an invoice. Additionally, the document was sent to the insurance company three days after the company issued a check to the defendant. Therefore the insurance company’s payment could not have been triggered by the defendant’s submission of the document. Additionally, the State’s evidence showed that it was not the written estimate that falsely led the insurance company to believe that the defendant’s pets remained at Meadowsweet long after they had been removed from that facility, but rather the defendant’s oral representations made later. (3) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that false pretenses indictments pertaining to moving expenses were fatally defective because they did not allege the exact misrepresentation with sufficient precision. The indictments were legally sufficient: each alleged both the essential elements of the offense and the ultimate facts constituting those elements by stating that the defendant obtained money from the insurance company through a false representation made by submitting a fraudulent invoice which was intended to, and did, deceive the insurance company.

 

Indictments charging obtaining property by false pretenses were not defective. The charges arose out of the defendant’s acts of approaching two individuals (Ms. Hoenig and Ms. Harward), falsely telling them their roofs needed repair, taking payment for the work and then performing shoddy work or not completing the job. At trial, three other witnesses testified to similar incidents. On appeal, the defendant argued that the indictments failed to “intelligibly articulate” his misrepresentations. The court disagreed:

The indictments clearly state that defendant, on separate occasions, obtained property (money) from Ms. Hoenig and Ms. Harward by convincing each victim to believe that their roofs needed extensive repairs when in fact their roofs were not in need of repair at all. In each indictment, the State gave the name of the victim, the monetary sum defendant took from each victim, and the false representation used by defendant to obtain the money: by defendant “approaching [Ms. Hoenig] and claiming that her roof needed repair, and then overcharging [Ms. Hoenig] for either work that did not need to be done, or damage that was caused by the defendant[.]” As to Ms. Harward, the false representation used by defendant to obtain the money was “by . . . claiming that her shed roof needed repair, [with defendant knowing] at the time [that he] intended to use substandard materials and construction to overcharge [Ms. Harward].” Each indictment charging defendant with obtaining property by false pretenses was facially valid, as each properly gave notice to defendant of all of the elements comprising the charge, including the element defendant primarily challenges: the alleged misrepresentation (i.e., that defendant sought to defraud his victims of money by claiming their roofs needed repair when in fact no repairs were needed, and that defendant initiated these repairs but either failed to complete them or used substandard materials in performing whatever work was done). 

(1) Indictments charging the defendant with obtaining property by false pretenses were not defective. The indictments alleged in part that “[t]he defendant sold bread products to the victim that were advertised and represented as Gluten Free when in fact the defendant knew at the time that the products contained Gluten.” The court rejected the argument that the indictments were defective because they failed to sufficiently allege that he himself made a false representation. (2) There was no fatal variance between an indictment alleging that the defendant obtained value from the victim and the evidence, which showed that he obtained value from the victim’s husband. Citing G.S. 14-100(a), the court concluded that because an indictment for obtaining property by false pretenses need not allege any person's ownership of the thing of value obtained, the allegation was surplusage.

State v. Moore, 209 N.C. App. 551 (Feb. 15, 2011) rev’d in part on other grounds, 365 N.C. 283 (Aug 24 2017)

Stating in dicta that an indictment alleging obtaining property by false pretenses need not identify a specific victim.

Show Table of Contents