Massachusetts is one of the few states that imposes serious criminal charges when a person steals an item worth more than $250. Stealing an item valued at more than $250 is a felony theft under Massachusetts law. The consequence of this is that people who commit relatively minor offenses of theft are subject to incredibly harsh punishments. Continue Reading
Over the Holidays, Haverhill was startled by vandalism of a Nativity scene displayed in front of Sacred Hearts Church on Christmas day. A religious statue was stolen and replaced with a severed pig head. There were concerns that the vandalism was a hate crime or was meant to convey an anti-religious message to the community. However, police have identified a mentally ill homeless woman as the culprit, the Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports. Continue Reading
The crime-drama shows on television always follow the same general plot line: a crime is committed, a suspect is identified, but then the suspect has an alibi, and the search for the real killer/thief/attacker continues for the remainder of the episode. In these shows, the suspect with the alibi becomes a suspect in the first place due to some sort of incriminating evidence against him or her at the scene of the crime. For instance, a DNA sample was present at the scene of the crime that belonged to the suspect (a cigarette butt, a drop of blood, a wad of chewed gum, etc.), there was some sort of connection between the suspect and the victim (they were friends, ex-lovers, co-workers, business partners, etc.), or a witness alleges that he or she saw the suspect at the scene. Regardless of how it happened, the suspect got tangled up in the investigation of the crime. Fortunately, there may be an alibi defense that can help you get acquitted. Continue Reading
Shoplifting happens all the time in retail stores near and around North Andover. In fact, in 2011 shoplifting was the second most common arrest, with a total of 138 shoplifting-related arrests, and most of those arrests relating to shoplifting incidents that took place at the North Andover Mall. Females are more likely to engage in shoplifting. When shoplifting happens, sometimes the accused are actually guilty, while other times there has been a mistake or some sort of confusion and no actual theft has occurred. Regardless, if you have been charged with the crime of shoplifting, you need the support and knowledge that an experienced shoplifting defense attorney can provide. Continue Reading
Two Lynn Massachusetts residents, Marilyn Beltran,42, and Eliu Matos, 43, have been indicted in connection with an alleged check scam involving MassHealth’s transportation program. The two will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on January 17. It is alleged that Beltran, who was employed by a private company contracted to administer the transportation program, filed fraudulent reimbursement claims between October of 2003 and July of 2012. She allegedly cashed the checks for herself, even though the claims were for family members. Matos allegedly helped Beltran by cashing some of the checks, which Beltran made out in his name. Both are facing numerous counts of larceny over $250 and presentation of false claims. According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, Beltran was a transportation specialist, and her primary responsibility was reimbursement data entry. The alleged scheme yielded more than $490,000. An internal investigation allegedly uncovered this scheme. The company at which Beltran worked has offered to pay restitution and has promised to implement better auditing and oversight procedures.
In a statement, Attorney General Martha Coakley said, “This deception not only defrauds taxpayers, it also exploits the integrity of a system that is meant to help those most in need.”MassHealth provides both emergency and non-emergency transportation services to those with low income. According to the MassHealth website, those with certain types of MassHealth coverage can be reimbursed for use of public transportation and travel costs greater than $5, provided that the medical appointment is not within walking distance and the services are documented. Van and taxi services are available to those without access to public or private transportation, so long as a health care provider authorizes the need for transportation. It is unclear how Beltran would have been able, as the government alleges, to make claims on behalf of family members. It is also unclear, from reviewing the requirements for reimbursement, how one’s health care provider would not become aware of fraud, since the medical services generally need to be documented and the provider must certify the need for transportation.
In cases such as this one, a larceny over $250 charge is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for up to five years. At the district court level, a charge of larceny over $250 is punishable by up to two years in jail. The prosecution of Beltran and Matos will likely be very aggressive, given the large amount of money involved and the fact that, as noted by Coakley, the alleged scheme will probably undermine public confidence in the system.
Justin Rogers, an 18-year-old from Quincy, and Tyrell Mosley, an 18-year-old from Brockton, have been arraigned on 10 counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle and eight counts of larceny under $250. Mosley is also charged with three counts of improper use of a credit card. It is alleged that the two men broke into cars in an apartment complex parking lot over the course of the month and stole a variety of items, including money, prescription drugs and electronics. Scituate and Cohasset police worked on the investigation, which reportedly included video surveillance. Detectives were allegedly able to identify the pair after footage revealed one of them using a stolen credit card. Police were allegedly able to observe part of the license plate of the vehicle driven by the suspects, and the full plate number was identified after further surveillance. Wicked Local reports that both of these men were “transported to the Scituate Police station for booking. Upon their release on bail, they were re-arrested by Cohasset detectives and transported to the Cohasset Police station for booking.”
As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, this arrest scenario immediately strikes me as strange. It might be that these men were “re-arrested” by the Cohasset police because the Scituate police were acting outside of their jurisdiction during the initial arrest. Police officers do not have authority to act outside of their jurisdictions unless they are authorized by statute or are conducting a valid citizens’ arrest. There are certain exceptions. One allows an officer who sees an arrestable offense being committed in his own jurisdiction to pursue the suspect into a neighboring jurisdiction to conduct an arrest. Another exception allows an officer sworn in as a special police officer in a second jurisdiction to make an arrest in the second jurisdiction. The third exception allows an officer in one jurisdiction to request “suitable aid” from an officer outside of his jurisdiction. Finally, the last exception allows officers of towns that have entered into mutual aid agreements to arrest in the municipalities included in the agreement. These exceptions are laid out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, section 98A, Chapter 41, section 99, Chapter 37, section 13, and Chapter 40, section 8G.
In this case, it might be that the Scituate and Cohasset police departments have some sort of mutual aid agreement, given that they were working together on this investigation. This might not be so, however, because it doesn’t seem to make sense that Rogers and Mosley were arrested by Scituate officers, released, and then re-arrested by Cohasset officers. This might be one ground for a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to dismiss.
Lashanta Magnusson, former treasurer of a Tewksbury nonprofit Friends of Special Ed Kids (FOSEK), was arraigned on embezzlement charges Friday, according to the Lowell Sun. The prosecution alleges that Magnusson used the organization’s debit card to purchase personal groceries, gas, and other items and to make her car loan payments. The investigation began in September after members of the FOSEK board reached out to Tewksbury police with their concerns. The board members allegedly noticed improprieties in the organization’s checking and savings accounts. Magnusson, as the treasurer, was allegedly the only person with access to both accounts. FOSEK’s CEO and president reportedly became suspicious on September 10, when he made a deposit and noticed that the balance was unexpectedly low. It is alleged that the unauthorized withdrawals date back to April or even as far back as 2010 and that the total amount was more than $5,000. Electronic purchases made with the debit card allegedly include pizza and items from Walmart. Magnusson’s pre-trial conference is scheduled for January 11.
In this case, it is worth noting that the paper reported that Magnusson became a suspect because she was allegedly the only person with access to both the checking and the savings accounts. It does not say whether or how many other people had access to one, but not both, accounts. Most debit cards allow a person to choose which account to withdraw funds from, so if other personnel had debit cards, it would seem that others would have access to both accounts. It would also seem that, even if no one else had access to both accounts, two persons with access to one account each could have been responsible.
When making an electronic purchase using a debit card, often one is able to choose whether to treat the purchase as debit or credit. This may be important if the alleged purchases were made using the credit option because the Supreme Judicial Court has said that credit does not count as “property” within the meaning of G. L.c. 266, §30, the Massachusetts larceny statute. The difference between larceny and embezzlement lies in whether a person was or was not rightfully in possession of the property when a taking occurred. Embezzlement involves an unauthorized taking of property where the defendant was rightfully in possession. The prosecution has to prove that a defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Larceny by embezzlement over $250 is a Massachusetts felony. Where the amount in question is $250 or less, the crime is only punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine. Here, Magnusson is apparently facing felony embezzlement charges, since it is alleged that the value of the property was more than $5,000.