Embezzlement by False Pretenses: Charges, Penalties & Defense

Gavel depicting false pretenses charges

Have you or has anyone you know been charged with embezzlement by false pretenses in Michigan?

As an example of what false pretenses is, let’s take a look at the Candace Streng case. She was formerly a nanny in Brighton, Michigan.

Supporting a nanny with stage four breast cancer seems like a legitimate campaign.

However, it turns out that Candace Streng, 33, was faking her diagnosis since 2015. She embezzled money from friends and acquaintances with a GoFundMe campaign.

It worked for a while. Investigators estimate Streng raked in $31,000 by April of 2017 using this false story.

This news story doesn’t say how investigators found out about the possible fraud. However, it does say they checked the hospital where she claimed to be receiving treatment and found no record of her.

Streng has been charged with false pretense and sentenced to twenty-eight and a half months to fifteen years in prison. She has also been ordered to pay restitution to GoFundMe, which refunded all of her contributors. This is on top of the $19,000 in restitution she has already paid.

False Pretense is a Crime

The Michigan Penal Code has made false pretense a crime since 1931. According to Section 750.218(1), you are committing False Pretense when you:

  • Cause a person to grant, convey, assign, lease or mortgage land or an interest in land.
  • Obtain any money, personal property, the use of any instrument, facility, article or other valuable thing or service from a person
  • Obtain someone’s signature on a forged written instrument (document).
  • Dispose of a smaller amount or quantity of property than was bargained for by means of false weight or measure.
  • Obtain a larger amount of property than was bargained for by means of false weight or measure.

In 2004, Michigan Legislature made it illegal also to promise to do something in the future by means of false pretenses.

To Prove a False Pretenses Case

If you are charged with false pretense, in a Michigan court the prosecution must prove four major elements to your crime:

  • False representation of an existing fact.
  • That the defendant knowingly falsified the representation.
  • That the defendant used the false representation in order to deceive.
  • The victim relied on the false representation to his or her detriment.

Streng plead guilty to one count of false pretense and avoided a second charge of using a computer to commit a crime.

Maybe it was because she knew that in a trial, prosecutors could show all four of these elements to be true and that investigators could verify that she had no medical records showing a cancer diagnosis.

Penalties for False Pretenses in Michigan

The penalty for false pretense is similar to any charge of robbery. It depends upon the amount stolen or defrauded from the victim or victims. In Michigan, penalties include:

  • Less than $200 – Jail time up to 93 days, fine up to $500.
  • Between $200 and $1,000 – Jail time up to 1 year, fine up to $2,000.
  • Between $1,000 and $20,000 – Jail time for up to 5 years, fine up to $10,000.
  • Between $20,000 and $50,000 – Jail time for up to 15 years and fine up to $15,000.
  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 – Prison time up to 15 years and fine up to 25,000.
  • More than $100,000 – Prison time up to 20 years and fine up to $35,000.

Streng’s sentence was so long because of the amount of money she defrauded from her contributors. The fines in the sentence are on top of any restitution ordered to be paid by a judge.

Additionally, Michigan law allows for the imposition of a statutory fine or a fine of triple the value involved, whichever is greater. If a judge decides to use the second sentencing value, it could result in a fine much higher than the fine set forward in the statute depending how much money investigators can prove was stolen.

Strong Criminal Defense

If you are facing false pretenses charges in Michigan, it’s easy to see how the potential penalty could ruin your life and finances. An aggressive defense attorney would establish that your case doesn’t meet the burden of proof. An experienced criminal attorney would strive to show you did not have the intent or the knowledge to commit this crime.

Call me today if you are facing this charge and potential penalties. I will do everything legally possible to protect your rights and freedom.

Let’s start fighting for your freedom!

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