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Theft by deception in Maryland: A distinct category of theft

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Firm News

The criminal offense of theft is defined as the taking of another person’s property with the intent to deprive said person of the item. While most forms of theft are straightforward, such as pickpocketing, burglary and robbery, there’s also theft by deception – the act of acquiring property through intentional misrepresentation and deceit.

Theft by deception is a broad descriptor for various theft schemes that don’t involve force or stealth. It’s a crime in Maryland and other U.S. states, with severe penalties for those convicted.

The key elements of theft by deception

Maryland law outlines the parameters of theft, including theft by deception. But generally speaking, theft by deception will involve the following elements:

  • An intentional falsehood about a significant fact: The offender made a false statement or misrepresentation.
  • Victim’s reliance on the falsehood: The offender made the other person believe the false statement was real, tricking them into giving up the property.
  • Intent to defraud: The offender meant to use false statements or deceit to acquire the other person’s property.

In theft by deception, there’s no physical taking involved. The offender exploits trust and relies on the victim’s belief that the information provided is “real.” Thus, the false representation is the central element of the offense, rather than the act of physically taking.

Examples of theft by deception

The following actions are examples of theft by deception:

  • Dine and dashing
  • Selling goods or services that don’t exist
  • Falsifying information to secure a loan
  • Misrepresenting the condition of an item sold
  • Obtaining goods or services by pretending to be another person
  • Selling merchandise while concealing the fact that they were stolen

The consequences of the offense are the same ones imposed on those convicted of simple theft. The crime is a misdemeanor for theft involving property worth less than $1,000. However, the offense is a felony if the property is worth $1,000 or more. Prison time from 10 to 20 years awaits those committing felony theft by deception.

Theft by deception is a serious crime in Maryland that differs from other theft offenses in that it uses deceit rather than force or unauthorized taking. Understanding the statutes and potential penalties is crucial for individuals facing charges or those interested in Maryland law. Anyone accused of theft by deception should seek legal advice due to the complexity of these cases.