Citation Edit

United States v. Jones, 414 F. Supp. 964 (D. Md. 1976) (full-text), rev’d, 553 F.2d 351 (4th Cir. 1977) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendant Jones was charged with transportation of stolen, converted, or fraudulently obtained securities with receiving, selling or disposing of those securities knowing them to have been stolen, converted or taken by fraud. The securities at issue were five checks made payable to the order of “A.L.E. Jones,” and drawn on a Canadian bank against the account of a Canadian firm. The government alleged that the defendant transported the checks from Canada to Maryland and deposited the checks in a Maryland bank account. The dispute revolved around the question of whether or not the securities, i.e., the checks, were genuine, or instead were forgeries of checks of a foreign corporation to which federal law does not apply.

District Court Proceedings Edit

The difficulty that the trial court had with the issue arose because the checks were printed by computer, complete with authorized facsimile signatures, and were printed as a direct result of tampering with the data stored in the computer and with the payment data input to the computer. The question facing the judge was whether these checks could be characterized as “falsely made, forged, altered, counterfeited or spurious.”

The judge held that “the mere fact that a computer was used to print these checks should not be permitted to confuse the matter.” The judge found that the computer merely acted as an extension of the defendant’s accomplice and that the checks therefore fit within the definition of forgery. Since the court found that the crime was forgery, the acts did not come within the proscription of federal law and the indictments were dismissed.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

On appeal the court held that instead of forgery, the crime was fraud or false pretenses. In making that ruling, the court made the following distinction:

We think, however, that the acts of [defendant’s accomplice] did not constitute the making of a false writing, but rather amounted to the creation of a writing which was genuine in execution but false as to the statements of facts contained in such writing. The distinction is critical to the sufficiency of the indictment.

The court found that the Canadian firm’s accounting department was defrauded into believing that the company owed a bona fide obligation to defendant Jones, and accordingly, issued a “genuine instrument containing a false statement of fact as to the true creditor.” Since the check did not fall within the forgery exclusion of the statutes, the court reversed the district court and reinstated the indictment.

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