Fraud comes in many different ingenious forms and schemes. As such, it is not surprising that some merchants find themselves victims of thieves who steal without even leaving their store. This scheme is referred to as “Return Fraud.” It is a crime that involves individuals exchanging stolen goods for cash, using counterfeit receipts or bringing back items to the merchants that have already been used or worn. In some cases, fraudsters even pick up merchandise while at the store and return it at the customer service counter for a refund.
What Does Return Fraud Involve?
Return fraud involves obtaining money or property by use of deceptive means. Similar to shoplifting, return fraud is a type of retail fraud that California law considers as petty theft. As such, in order to be convicted of “return fraud,” it requires proof that you stole an item that was taken intentionally (not accidentally), with the intent to steal.
Moreover, similar to shoplifting, return fraud is generally charged as petty theft under California Penal Code Section 484(a) and California Penal Code Section 488 PC, which includes any theft crime that meets the following elements:
- The value of the stolen property is $950 or less;
- The property was not taken directly off another person (such as robbery); and
- The property that was stolen was not a gun or automobile.
Under California Penal Code Section 484, if you use fraud or deceit to obtain possession of money, labor, or real personal property, you are guilty of theft by trick. The law defines theft by trick as using fraud or deceit as a means to obtain possession of someone else’s property.
Evidence Needed to Prove Return Fraud
In order to prove return fraud, the retailer only needs to prove that the product returned is not the same product sold. This can be done by the box, item code records, stock codes, or providing a video of the transaction.
However, just as with any other criminal charge, there are defenses that an experienced Stockton criminal defense attorney can use to undermine the prosecutor’s case and prevent a conviction. As such, it is imperative that you immediately seek the legal advice of an attorney who specifically has experience and knowledge in handling these types of cases.
Call an Experienced Stockton Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone that you care about has been arrested for a crime, it is imperative that you immediately hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your legal rights and ensure that you have the best defense possible to avoid a criminal conviction.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Stockton criminal defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call us at (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.