Fraudulent Accosting in New York
“Accosting” is simply confronting someone or approaching them aggressively.
“Fraudulent accosting” is a criminal act under New York Penal Law § 165.3.
What is “Fraudulent Accosting?”
When it comes to your conduct in public spaces, intention matters. It’s a crime to approach another person with the intention to “trick” or “swindle” them out of their money or property. Citizens are entitled to go about their day in the larger community without being otherwise defrauded or scammed.
For this reason, accosting an individual with the intention to trick them out of their money impedes on their right to make informed financial decisions. The legal term for this act of deception is called “fraudulent accosting.”
Legal Definition of Fraudulent Accosting
New York Penal Law § 165.30
Fraudulent accosting is included in the section of the penal code relating to theft and larceny. Penal Law Article 165.30 outlines fraudulent accosting in New York State.
Under New York State law, fraudulent accosting is a class A misdemeanor and is prosecuted according to the unique circumstances of the crime.
The charge of fraudulent accosting is applied to cases in which an individual approaches a person or persons in a public place with the intention to trick them out of their money. In order to be guilty of fraudulent accosting, the individual must approach or accost the swindled party first and must do so while knowingly and willingly.
When it comes to fraudulent accosting, deceitful acts largely include those who lend to the deliberate or premeditated misrepresentation of one’s identity, professional associations, or of a product or service.
When an individual approaches someone else under false pretenses with the goal of cheating them of their money or property, then they are guilty of fraudulent accosting under the New York Penal Law.
What is Dishonesty by Omission?
Dishonesty by omission is considered to be an offense punishable under New York State Penal Laws relating to fraudulent accosting. Failing to include pertinent information when initiating an interaction with another person in a public space, specifically one that results in a disingenuous financial transaction, is considered to be harmful and legally constitutes fraudulent accosting.
Under the right circumstances, dishonesty by omission can lend to intent to defraud. Often, logical deduction is used when considering cases in which fraudulent information is not overtly relayed or discussed.
What constitutes an act of “trick, swindle or confidence game”?
As with many other crimes, word choice is very important when considering this charge. A concern often brought up in regard to the charge of fraudulent accosting is what specifically constitutes an act of “trick, swindle or confidence game,” as stated in §165.30. This is largely due to the contested definitions of the terms “trick,” “swindle,” or “confidence game.”
But, as previous cases have demonstrated, these terms have broad implications. Usually, any action that involves intentional deception on the part of the accused qualifies as a crime under this statute. Additionally, many defendants have contested the charge of fraudulent accosting based on the parameters and implications of the phrase “public place.”
The elements of fraudulent accosting
In a system in which you are innocent until proven guilty, the burden of proving that a particular crime occurred falls on the prosecution. Let’s delve a little more deeply into the elements of fraudulent accosting in order to better understand its meaning and implications. Under article §165.30, for a defendant to be convicted in a criminal trial for fraudulent accosting, the prosecution must prove that:
- the accused approached the victim in a public space
- the accused misrepresented themselves or their actions in order to solicit financial gain from the victim
The intention behind the actions of the individuals involved and the sequencing of events in the interaction are often significant factors when it comes to the crime of fraudulent accosting. Furthermore, depending on the circumstance, it must also be proven that the accused knowingly provided false statements regarding themselves or their intentions, hoping to benefit monetarily from the deception.
Additionally, the crime rests largely on the act of “accosting,” which means to approach or speak to. Hence, it is a key element of the crime of fraudulent accosting that the accused initiated the contact.
- Suppose Michael is short on cash. His rent is due this month, and he is running out of legal options. Out of desperation, he comes up with a plan. He remembers that a large show is going to be held at the stadium nearby and that a popular artist will be performing. Michael knows that tickets will be in high demand for this event.
In order to raise the money, he decides that he will generate counterfeit tickets and sell them in front of the venue. So, he takes his place outside of the stadium, counterfeit tickets in hand, and begins to sell them. An informant purchases a ticket, and Michael is arrested. Michael can then be charged with fraudulent accosting.
What factors will affect his sentencing?
If Michael calls out to the people passing by, intending to sell the fraudulent tickets to them, or posts about the sale beforehand, he can be convicted of fraudulent accosting. In this case, Michael initiates contact with members of the public, knowingly and willingly engaging in acts of deception in order to turn a profit.
When Michael reaches out to the victims first, people who otherwise would not have bought the tickets from him, he is then guilty of fraudulent accosting. But, if Michael does not approach anyone and instead is approached himself, he would have an affirmative defense against the charge of fraudulent accosting.
He may be guilty of other crimes related to theft and larceny, but, in order to be guilty of fraudulent accosting, the defendant must have initiated the interaction. So, even if a transaction occurred and an individual was tricked out of their money because of the false tickets, this particular charge would not apply to Michael’s actions.
What you can be charged with: fraudulent accosting and related crimes?
The New York Statutes most directly related to fraudulent accosting are Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, Petit Larceny, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, and Theft of Services. Although these crimes are not the most harshly prosecuted crimes related to theft and larceny, they are serious nonetheless.
Under New York Penal Law, individuals convicted of fraudulent accosting are subject to a punishment of up to one year in jail, and a potential fine up to $1000, or twice the amount gained through the fraudulent actions. Additionally, you might be sentenced to up to three years of probation.
Important Cases That Define Fraudulent Accosting in New York State
People v. Abbott is a relatively clear-cut case in the realm of fraudulent accosting. The defendant intentionally spilled coffee under the car of an elderly woman in order to substantiate the subsequent claim that it was oil, indicating that there was a problem with the vehicle’s engine.
In an elaborate series of events following, the defendant convinced the elderly woman that he was qualified to “fix” her vehicle, and charged her a substantial sum for the cost of the purported repairs and required parts.
In this case, the defendant approached the victim in a public place with the intent to defraud her out of her money. The confidence game that he ran ended up cheating the elderly woman out of approximately $1,400. Abbott was convicted of fourth-degree larceny and fraudulent accosting by a jury, which concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the charges.
- People v. Tanner, 153 Misc 2d at 746. (1992)
In this case, the defendant was witnessed sitting behind a rack of sweatshirts for sale that bore the Hardrock Café’s logo on them. The sweatshirts were priced for $5.00 each. It was confirmed by the Hardrock Café’s security investigator that the Hardrock Café retains all exclusive rights to sell merchandise bearing their logo and that Tanner did not have permission from the establishment to profit from their brand or sell their merchandise.
Initially, the defense argued that Tanner did not exhibit “intent to defraud.” But, the court related that, by presenting sweatshirts with the false Hardrock Cafes logo on them to the public for sale, the logical deduction would be that the intent was to deceive others into believing that the products were genuine.
Then, the defense asserted that the charge of fraudulent accosting did not fit of the crime, as Tanner had not approached anyone regarding the sale of the merchandise or called out to passersby. Before this, the term “accost” had not been thoroughly examined in cases of this kind.
Ultimately, the court ruled that based on the dictionary definition of “accost,” the evidence was insufficient to prove that Tanner had approached anyone regarding the sale of the counterfeit merchandise. When comparing this case to cases in which defendants had approached strangers with the intent to defraud and were convicted of fraudulent accosting, the court acknowledged the dissimilarities in the sequence of events.
The charges were dismissed accordingly, and the ruling regarding fraudulent accosting in People v. Tanner has set the standard for similar cases that have followed. For example, People v. Watts, 2012 NY Slip Op 50957, (N.Y. Crim. Ct., 2012).
- People v. Watts, 2012 NY Slip Op 50957, (N.Y. Crim. Ct., 2012)
This case follows closely the precedent set by People v. Tanner, 153 Misc 2d at 746, and reflects the current standard of evaluation regarding the term “accost” in fraudulent accosting cases. In the case of People v. Watts, the defendant was charged with fraudulent accosting as a result of his attempt to sell counterfeit tickets to a performance of the Book of Mormon.
The offense occurred in a hotel environment, where Watts offered to sell four tickets to the show to an informant for $200 dollars each. The defendant provided ticket numbers, which were later confirmed to be false by the manager of the show.
In this instance, the meeting was arranged between the informant and Watts. Wherein the defendant clearly stated that he was at the location to conduct business in regard to the Book of Mormon tickets. This case demonstrates an important element of fraudulent accosting.
Initially, Watts contested that the crime of fraudulent accosting was appropriate, as the offense occurred within a hotel. Wording plays an important role in this instance, as article 165.30 defines fraudulent accosting as a crime that occurs within a “public place.”
Penal Law § 240 defines “public place” as a place…the public or a substantial group of persons has access, and includes, but is not limited to hallways, lobbies and other portions of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments not designed for actual residence”. Although the People included an address of the hotel, they failed to establish this specifically as a public place.
Watts’ defense moved to dismiss the charge of fraudulent accosting entirely based on this tenet, and the grounds that the meeting between the defendant and the officer was pre-arranged and agreed upon. In other words, the hotel qualified as a public space, but Watts did not accost the informant within that space.
Ultimately, although the intent to defraud had been established, the court granted the dismissal of fraudulent accosting charges on these grounds. Again, although this is a clear case of fraud, it fails to meet the criteria and specificity of circumstance needed to convict an individual of fraudulent accosting in New York State.
- People v Perez 2018 NY Slip Op 28055
In this case, the defendant was charged with fraudulent accosting after approaching an officer on the street and selling him a bag of white powdery material that resembled cocaine. Perez asked the informant if he was waiting for someone, and whether he wanted “one bag for sixty or two for one hundred.”
The officer accepted the bag, believing it to be cocaine. In reality, after having the substance checked in a lab, it turned out that it had not been an illegal material. Perez was charged with fraudulent accosting. Although Perez had approached the officer, there was not enough factual or circumstantial evidence to convict him on charges of fraudulent accosting.
The objective events and particulars of the case did not suggest anything beyond a monetary transaction in which a bag of powder was going to be sold for $60. Cocaine was never mentioned, and there was no contextual information to suggest that this a fraudulent drug-related transaction.
As a result, the intent to defraud could not be established, and the charge of fraudulent accosting was dismissed.
Possible defenses to a fraudulent accosting charge
The charge of fraudulent accosting rests on the tenet that the accused accosted or approached an individual with intentions to trick or otherwise swindle them out of their money or property. The key component in the crime of fraudulent accosting is the act of accosting itself. In other words, in the case of fraudulent accosting, the most viable defense is usually that the accused did not approach the victim of the crime first.
In order to successfully prove that someone is guilty of fraudulent accosting, the prosecution has to show that the intention existed to cheat another person out of their money (intent to defraud), that the offense occurred in a public space, and that the accused initiated contact in order to implement a confidence game or scheme.
Even if the charge of fraudulent accosting is dismissed, an accused individual is still subject to similar theft and larceny charges under New York State Law.
Who investigates fraudulent accosting in New York State?
In New York State, fraudulent accosting cases are investigated by the office of the New York Attorney General. The attorney general is the head of the Department of Law of New York and acts on the state’s behalf to prosecute a wide range of crimes.
Why You Need a Lawyer if You’re Facing Charges of Fraudulent Accosting
If you are charged with fraudulent accosting, or even learn you are being investigated for possible participation in the act of fraudulent accosting, seek legal assistance early on. Fraudulent accosting is a crime. The price to pay for fraudulent accosting can be steep, and you’ll want to have a legal team that understands the intricacies of the charges that you’re facing on your side.
As mentioned, depending on the circumstances, you can face up to a year in jail if convicted. The offense of fraudulent accosting is serious. It requires lawyers knowledgeable about
- Possible defenses against fraudulent accosting;
- What conditions affect the potential penalties for fraudulent accosting;
- How fraudulent accosting is investigated in New York State; and
- How investigators may question you during an investigation surrounding a fraudulent accosting case
Lawyers can assist you in making statements. Choosing the right defense is imperative to tackling the situation properly from the onset of an investigation. You will need legal counsel that has defended others charged with fraudulent accosting to defend you. Your legal counsel will be able to:
- Analyze your specific situation to determine if you have been properly charged with the offense of fraudulent accosting;
- Develop the best possible defense to the charges, based on their experience in other cases and their understanding of your particular situation;
- Advocate forcefully on your behalf in all aspects of your defense.
What can you do? Contact Us!
So, you’ve been arrested for fraudulent accosting or expect to be investigated for fraudulent accost in the near future: what can you do? Call Us Now!
Seek legal advice early on. The penalties for fraudulent accosting can involve the imposition of harsh penalties on the offender, and a knowledgeable lawyer is necessary in order to protect yourself against any accusations relating to the crime.