By way of the Springfield Republican I recently came across the cautionary tale of a man who recently posted some items for sale on craigslist. After some communication over the internet, the man went to meet the person he believed would purchase these items at a local Starbucks.
Unbeknownst to the man, the interested buyer was not a potential customer at all, but rather the original owner of the equipment who had recognized his stolen goods when he saw them posted. That original owner called the police and with their help organized the sting that lead to the man’s arrest in the Starbucks. The man has been charged with receiving stolen property and it is likely a felony because the value of the property involved is greater than $250
Cases like this are becoming more and more common. Although the average receiving stolen property case never receives any media attention this one likely got coverage because of the excitement involved with a police sting spurred by a citizen pursuing his stolen property over craigslist.
An initial reading of the article might leave one with the impression that the man’s case is a hopeless one, that he was “caught red handed” and couldn’t have any possible defense. However receiving stolen property cases are not always as clear cut as they might seem at first blush.
In order to prove someone guilty of receiving stolen property it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person accused not only had possession of stolen property, but that the person in possession of the stolen property knew or believed it was stolen. (for a deeper discussion of exactly what that means read Commonwealth v. Sandler )
In this man’s case it’s not apparent at all that he knew the items he brought with him to the Starbuck’s were stolen property. There is no indication that he admitted to being the one who even posted the ad on craigslist. It is entirely possible that the man was the unknowing fall guy for the real guilty party, and was just used as a pawn to complete the transaction. Its also possible that the man bought these items from a source he thought was legitimate, and saw an opportunity to resell them for a profit.
Whether the man is guilty or not, he certainly finds himself in a difficult situation now. Being charged with a felony for receiving stolen property could have a major negative impact on his life. According to Massachusetts General Laws the maximum penalty for receiving stolen property over $250 is 5 years in state prison. On top of potential jail time if he is convicted the man will have the conviction on his criminal record, and may find it to be a significant bar to any attempt to gain employment over the next 10 years.
As a former prosecutor, and experienced Masschusetts criminal defense attorney I have had the opportunity to handle countless cases involving allegations of receiving stolen property. If you or your child has been charged with receiving stolen property or any theft crime contact my office for a free consultation. I would be happy to help you understand the charges you are facing, and let you know what to expect from the DA and the court. I can also help you understand the best strategy for fighting your case and protecting your criminal record and your future.