Two Chicago-area brothers are facing charges related to the fencing of stolen merchandise from their electronics store. The brothers are believed to have knowingly acquired the stolen merchandise, which is important for their successful prosecution. Authorities say that the merchandise was stolen from railcars and then sold to the brothers by thieves. They then repackaged laptops, fitbits, and other electronic devices for sale in other states and countries.
Transportation of Stolen Goods
There are several statutes that the brothers can be charged under, but in this case, they are only being charged with selling and transporting the stolen goods, not with actually stealing them. You can bet that if federal prosecutors had evidence of the brothers stealing the goods or being involved in the theft, that the charges would have been much higher. That is because theft of interstate commercial goods are prosecuted under The Hobbes Act which is an anti-organized crime and racketeering legislation that allows for enhanced penalties related to the interference of interstate commerce. In this case, the brothers avoided penalties under the Hobbes Act because they did not use force or coercion to acquire the goods.
Nonetheless, they committed a federal crime when they purchased the stolen goods and then unjustly earned a profit from their sale.
Understanding Federal Theft Prosecutions
There are times when theft issues are better handled by the federal government than the state governments. These typically involve interstate goods that travel between multiple states. State governments lack the resources to fully prosecute these crimes and thus, the federal government collates data from multiple states to prosecute the various defendants under federal law. Because of this, there is a requirement for most federal prosecutions involving stolen goods that the goods qualify as interstate commerce.
While prosecutors do better when they can prove a defendant knew that the goods were stolen, they do not have to prove what the defendant knew. Instead, they can prove that the defendant should have known the goods were stolen by using various context clues. The prosecution need only prove then, that a reasonable person would have suspected the goods were stolen. Thus, being tactically oblivious to all that’s around you is generally not a strong defense to fencing charges.
Because the reasonable person standard is so subjective, the prosecution will always try to argue that a reasonable person would have known the goods were stolen at the time of receipt. Failing that, the prosecution could prove that the reasonable person would have figured out that the goods were stolen at some point along the line. In that manner, a person can be charged with possessing stolen goods but not receiving stolen goods. Nonetheless, the law makes certain that a reasonable person would not ask where their goods were coming from since it automatically would implicate them in a crime.
Talk to a Chicago Federal Defense Attorney Today
If you are charged under any of the federal fencing or receiving stolen goods statutes, call Chicago federal defense attorney David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.