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Commonwealth v. Mills

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Mills (defendant) was convicted on multiple charges of larceny, larceny by false pretenses, and other various charges because Mills under reported his income to the city in order to qualify for his full disability income.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In situations where state law merges the crimes of larceny, embezzlement, and larceny by false pretenses into essentially the same crime, the prosecution need only prove the elements of one of these crimes in order to convict a defendant of theft.

    Facts.

    Mills worked for the Boston Police Department and when he retired he proceeded to apply and receive disability pension due to being diagnosed with a heart disease. In order to qualify to receive the full pension Mills was required to sign a document under penalty of perjury, which stated that Mills earned income below a specific threshold. Mills created a private-investigation firm,which appointed counsel for indigent defendant. Mills billed the city for the services he performed, but under reported the amount of income he was earning to qualify for his full disability income. Mills was convicted on multiple charges of larceny, larceny by false pretenses, and embezzlement. Mills appealed arguing filing false earning reports did not constitute theft.

    Issue.

    Whether the prosecution is required to prove only one set of elements of either larceny, larceny by false pretenses, or embezzlement when state law statutorily merges the crimes into one.

    Held.

    Yes, the prosecution need only prove the elements of larceny, larceny by false pretenses, or embezzlement when and if state law merges the crimes into one.

    Discussion.

    In cases where state law has merged larceny, larceny by false pretenses, and embezzlement into essentially one crime there can be no restriction under which legal theory the prosecution chooses to proceed against. Thus, if the prosecution wants to prosecute for the crime of larceny, they may prove the traditional elements of either larceny, larceny by false pretenses, or embezzlement. Larceny by false pretenses requires the defendant to knowingly make a false statement for the recipient of the statement to rely on the misinformation. Here, Mills knowingly made false statements when he under reported his income to the city to qualify for full disability and Mills intended for the city to rely on the misinformation so that he would continue to qualify for full disability. Thus, it follows that because the prosecution proceed that Mills was guilty of larceny by false pretenses, he will also by guilty of larceny and embezzlement.


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