What if you fell victim to an Internet scam and ended up facing a felony conviction?
This is what’s happening to a Bay City, Michigan man who wired $70,000 to someone from the African country of Ghana. He ended up being charged with false pretenses.
Let’s take a look at this example of false pretenses and what you should do if charged.
Kenneth Plonski, a landlord, met a man through a Facebook game who claimed to have access to large sums of gold in his home country. This man claimed the gold was worth much less than in other countries because it was so plentiful. He told Plonski that he could buy a large amount of it and sell it at a higher price in the United States.
The Tangled Web of Misrepresentation
What Plonski did to obtain the funds was the illegal part. He misrepresented himself as a single man. In reality he was married to a doctor. He obtained a mortgage through the Copoco Community Credit Union in 2014. He started making monthly payments and opened a Visa gift card with a line of credit secured from the mortgage for $20,000.
In 2016, Plonski began to make very large payments on the line of credit through an online bill pay system according to MLive. Then, a few days later, he made very large cash advances on the line of credit, which were then reversed and not honored.
Copoco Community Credit Union was out $72,413, according to court records. In order to wire the funds to a bank in Ghana, Plonski opened a savings account at another bank, Chemical Bank. He deposited large sums of money, presumably the money he’d obtained as a cash advance on his line of credit.
False Pretenses Charges
While not being aware, or not wanting to admit, you are the victim of a scam is not a crime. Clearly Plonski had his sights set on the money he would eventually receive. He wasn’t able to stop and see clearly that it was causing him to do something very serious.
According to court records, Plonski claimed he’d never received anything but promises for his payments. In addition, he said that he’d allowed the man to “take over” his computer by providing passwords and account numbers.
Unfortunately, it is his name on the bank records. He is the only one who can be held responsible in this country for defrauding the bank of its $70,000. For whatever reason, he also attempted to wire cash overseas on July 15. That was after he’d been advised by police and his attorney that he was being scammed.
The charge Plonski is facing is called False Pretenses.
The Definition of False Pretenses
When someone commits the crime of false pretenses, he misrepresents a fact or set of facts in order to acquire someone else’s property. In this case, he misrepresented the fact that he was married. He made it seem like he was obtaining a mortgage on a home. In reality, he was planning to take out a huge cash advance and not pay it back.
Additionally, this took planning and intentional payments to make the mortgage and line of credit look legitimate. If Plonski faces trial, the prosecutor must prove that he acquired the property (or money) by intentionally misstating fact.
Plonski’s defense attorney may attempt to prove that he only mistakenly believed the facts to be true. He may argue that Plonski believed the man from Ghana had supplied the cash Plonski was moving around because the other man had arranged the transactions. This may show reasonable doubt as to Plonski’s intentions.
If a person obtains another’s property by stating a fact they mistakenly believe to be true, they have not committed the crime of false pretenses.
The Punishment for False Pretenses
The crime of false pretenses is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $25,000 or three times the value of misappropriated money.
What do you think? Is Plonski guilty of false pretenses beyond all reasonable doubt? Or was it a case of mistaken belief?
If you or someone you love has been accused of false pretenses, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney by your side. Please contact my office today.