Theft or shoplifting charges may be filed in California as a result of return fraud. Returning stolen or changed goods in exchange for cash or shop credit is one of the most typical return fraud methods. These consist of the following:
- Receipt fraud is the practice of returning stolen goods using fake, discovered, or changed receipts
- Altering prices on labels or price tags
- Repackaging goods in lower priced boxes or packages is known as price arbitrage.
- Using stolen checks or credit cards to purchase goods for return or resale constitutes bad check or credit card fraud.
- Working with a store employee to steal and/or return goods is known as employee fraud
The National Retail Federation estimates that in 2018, fraud accounted for more than 8% of all retail returns. Keep reading to learn how these crimes could lead to state or federal criminal charges. Then contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857 for a legal consultation if you are charged with this crime.
Criminal charges you could face for return fraud
Criminal charges could result from return fraud activities in California for one of the following:
- Petty theft
- Grand theft
According to Penal Code 484, theft is defined as taking something with the goal to permanently or significantly deny the owner of the use, enjoyment, or value of it. Theft of items valued at $950 or less is considered petty theft under Penal Code 488. Under Penal Code 459.5, shoplifting is defined as going into a store with the intent to steal goods worth $950 or less.
Petty theft and shoplifting both result in $1,000 in fine and six months in jail. A theft of items valued at more than $950 is considered grand theft under Penal Code 487.
Grand theft is prosecuted as either a crime or a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties: as a misdemeanor, up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000; as a felony, up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Please be aware that unless the defendant has certain prior offenses that disqualify them, the value of the stolen goods can only be charged as a misdemeanor if it is less than $950.
You have defense options if you are accused of return fraud
Return fraud defenses could include showing there was a mistake, lack of intent, identity confusion, or being wrongfully charged. Remember that the majority of return fraud situations involve these two fundamental steps:
- Getting the goods by theft, fraud (switching price tags, repackaging), or purchasing stolen goods.
- Returning the goods that has been stolen or altered in any of the following ways: without a receipt, with a fake or discovered receipt, or after fraudulent repackaging.
The prosecution must prove the case against you. We do not have to prove that you did not do it – we only need to prove that the prosecution has not made their case. To find out your best way to respond to the accusations against you, contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857 for a legal consultation.