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Obtaining Money under False Pretenses

Virginia law takes all forms of theft seriously. Whether you are accused of taking people’s property or money by breaking into their homes, threatening them, or deceiving them into handing it over, Virginia prosecutors will charge you with the harshest crime possible. Obtaining money under false pretenses is a type of larceny in Virginia and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the money or property.

If you are facing accusations of obtaining money or property by false pretenses, call a Roanoke theft lawyer from Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico at right away.

Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses

Under Virginia statute §18.2-178, it is illegal to use any false pretense or token, with the intent to defraud, to obtain money, a gift certificate, or other property. To understand this crime and when you may be charged with it, you must recognize how Virginia law defines false pretenses. This concept includes whatever misrepresentations, lies, tricks, deception, and promises one individual makes to another in order to gain access or control over another’s money or property.

While the element of false pretense is crucial to this crime, prosecutors must prove four elements to have you convicted:

  • You had the intent to defraud another person or persons
  • You committed an actual fraud on one or more persons
  • You used a form of false pretense
  • The false pretense is in some way responsible for your fraudulently obtaining money or property

Most individuals think of this crime as a con or scam. While these terms suggest a continuous activity that includes a number of victims, the crime of false pretenses does not have to be a large operation. It only takes one individual fraudulently obtaining money or property from one other person for this crime to be committed.

Obtaining a Signature by False Pretenses

Virginia statute §18.2-178 also states it is illegal for anyone to use false pretenses or tokens to obtain the signature of any person to a writing, the falsity of which makes the signature a forgery.

Fraudulently obtaining a person’s signature is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Examples of Obtaining Money by False Pretenses

  • Pam receives a telephone call from an individual who says he is from the electrical company and can help her set up online payments. Pam gives him her back account information believing it is for an official purpose. However, the man uses the information to steal Pam’s savings.
  • Eric receives an email that looks to be from his credit card company asking to confirm his personal information, including Social Security number. The email is actually from an individual posing to be from the credit card company and this individual uses Eric’s personal information to purchase property in Eric’s name.
  • Susan is approached by a man outside of a popular music venue who states he has tickets to tonight’s concert but cannot go. Susan purchases the tickets at what she believes is a great discount only to later discover the tickets are forgeries.

Penalties for Obtaining Money by False Pretenses

Whether or not you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony for obtaining money under false pretenses depends on the value of the property or money. If you are charged with taking property valued at less than $200, you are charged with petty larceny – a Class 1 misdemeanor. You face up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. If you are accused of stealing more than $200 worth of property or money, you will be charged with grand larceny, which is a felony. This can be punished with up to 20 years in prison and significant fines. You will also be required to pay restitution to the victim or victims if you are convicted.

Enhanced Sentences for Larceny Crimes in Virginia

You face harsher punishments if you have one or more previous convictions for obtaining money by false pretenses or another larceny offense. Even if this is the first time you face this exact charge, it can be punished as a second offense if you have been previously convicted of larceny. For a second offense, you face a minimum of 30 days in prison and up to 12 months in prison.

A second conviction for obtaining money by false pretenses can be punished as a third offense with previous larceny charges on your record. It will automatically be a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine.

Defending Against Criminal Accusations

By working with an experienced Roanoke theft lawyer, you can defend against a first or subsequent larceny charge. Your attorney will analyze your situation to determine the strongest defenses possible under the law. Common defenses to obtaining money by false pretenses are:

  • You did not have the necessary intent to defraud someone
  • You did not use any type of false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or trick
  • Any false pretenses you used did not help you obtain the money or property

Contact a Roanoke Theft Lawyer Today

When you are facing any type of larceny charge in Virginia, including obtaining money under false pretenses, the experienced Roanoke theft lawyers of Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help. We will evaluate your case and explain your legal options.

Call us today at to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.