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How Forgery Can Lead to Serious Jail Time–Especially If Other People Are Involved

One of the most common white-collar crimes is forgery. You probably understand the concept of forgery already. If a person, say, signs someone else’s name to a check and tries to cash it, that is a clear case of forgery. The legal definition of forgery is forging a writing “with intent to defraud or harm another.”

More specifically, forgery covers anyone who possesses forged writing with intent to “issue” or use it. In other words, if one person actually forged the check, and a second person then cashed it knowing it was forged, both are guilty of forgery. As far as the law is concerned, both persons formed the requisite “intent to defraud or harm another.”

Austin Man Who Cashed Forged $2,200 Check Receives 50-Year Prison Sentence

While forgery may not strike many people as serious as, say, armed robbery, it can still lead to severe legal penalties. Take this recent decision from the Texas Third District Court of Appeals in Austin, Ford v. State. In this case, the defendant entered a local bank and cashed a check for approximately $2,200. The defendant’s name was on the check, which was drawn against a company called J.T. Drilling. A few minutes later, a second person entered the same bank and cashed another check, also drawn against J.T. Drilling.

Bank employees became suspicious at this point and decided to call J.T. Drilling. The company said neither of the two checks was authorized. During this time, the second person had left the bank without receiving any cash. Bank surveillance video later showed both the defendant and this second person entering the same car, which was driven by a third individual.

Police eventually located and pulled over the car with the three individuals. The police subsequently recovered a “bundle of ten checks,” all of which were drawn against J.T. Drilling and named the defendant or the second person as payees. Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with both forgery and “engaging in organized criminal activity.” (In Texas, organized criminal activity is defined as three or more persons collaborating to commit a felony such as forgery.)

A jury subsequently convicted the defendant of both charges. The trial court imposed a sentence of 20 years for the forgery–and 50 years for participating the organized criminal activity. On appeal, the defendant raised several arguments, including a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence against him. The Third District rejected these arguments and upheld the defendant’s conviction and sentence.

At trial, the defendant testified that he did not know the check he cashed that day was a forgery. He said that he met the other two men that same day and they gave him the check “to help them pick up and hail items from oilfields.” However, the jury also heard testimony that J.T. Drilling never heard of–or employed–any of the three men. The appeals court said the jury was free to disbelieve the defendant’s story. The court also noted the defendant had a clear “motive to cash the forged check” and that other “unauthorized checks” were found in the car when the defendant was placed under arrest.

Contact Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Tad Nelson Today

As this case illustrates, forgery can lead to serious jail time, especially when multiple people may be involved in the crime. That is why if you are facing forgery or similar charges, you need to work with an experienced Houston white collar crimes defense lawyer who will zealously represent you in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.