South Carolina law treats wrongfully gaining property from another person, or theft, as a criminal offense. Theft can happen in a number of ways, including fraud or larceny. Similar to both these crimes is the theft crime of “false pretenses,” which is sometimes described as a combination of fraud and larceny because it involves both deception and intentionally depriving someone of their own property.
Although a non-violent crime, false pretenses, or “obtaining property under false pretenses” as it’s also called, is a serious matter in South Carolina and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Regardless of the category of the charges, an accusation of theft by false pretenses can have a huge impact on your life.
Read on to learn more about what constitutes a false pretenses charge and the consequences you could face if found guilty.
As laid out in South Carolina General Code Section 16-13-240, it is a crime to obtain a signature, money, or property from someone under false pretenses or misrepresentation of a fact with “intent to cheat and defraud a person of that property.” Simply put, if you obtain money, property, or the title to property from someone else by lying to them or knowingly making misrepresentations of a fact with the intention of cheating them out of their money or property, you’ve obtained their money or property under false pretenses. The property in question can be either tangible or intangible.
An example of obtaining property under false pretenses would be convincing your neighbor to sell you their car, having them sign over the title to the vehicle, but having no intention of paying the promised amount.
Another example would be if your friend had a collector’s item that you wanted, and you convinced them the item was worthless and to sell it to you because of that “fact” for $10, but you knew the item was really worth $500. You would have obtained the item under false pretenses.
The charges and punishments for false pretenses depend on the value of the property that was falsely obtained:
- If the property that was falsely obtained is valued at under $2,000, _ is charged as a misdemeanor and tried in magistrates court. A conviction is punishable by either a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 30 days in jail.
- If the property that was falsely obtained is valued at more than $2,000 but less than $10,000, a false pretenses charge is categorized as a felony and a conviction is punishable by a fine in an amount that is at the discretion of the court or a prison sentence of no more than five years.
- If the property that was falsely obtained is valued at more than $10,000, a false pretenses charge is categorized as a felony and a conviction is punishable by a fine of no more than $500 or a prison sentence of no more than 10 years.
It should be noted that in order for charges of obtaining property by false pretenses to be presented, the perpetrator must acquire the title to the property in question from the original owner, not just take possession of the property itself. Another key element that a prosecutor must establish in a false pretenses charge is an intent to defraud or cheat someone out of their property.
Being accused of obtaining property under false pretenses can have a major impact on your life. At SeiferFlatow, our criminal defense team knows that you are innocent until proven guilty, and we will work hard to put together a defense strategy that results in the best possible outcome for you. Contact our South Carolina office today to schedule a consultation.