State v. Mostafavi, 370 N.C. 681 (Apr. 6, 2018)

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.

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