Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CR-12-1378
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Davi E. Axelson, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge. [*]
Appellant challenges his conviction of offering a forged check in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.631, subd. 3 (2010), arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish knowledge and intent. We affirm.
On December 18, 2011, appellant Darryl Moody received a check in the mail from Big Foot 4x4 for $1, 823.79. The next day, appellant tried to cash the check at his bank, Citizen Community Federal Bank (Citizen Bank), located inside the Wal-Mart store in Oak Park Heights. The teller at Citizen Bank informed him that he did not have sufficient funds in his account to cash the check, but that he could deposit it and the bank would give him $200 until it cleared. The teller also suggested that appellant might be able to cash the check at the customer-service counter at Wal-Mart, which appellant tried to do. An employee at the customer-service counter told appellant that the check could not be cashed because it was not a government-issued or payroll check.
Appellant then went to Unbank, located on University and Lexington Avenues in St. Paul, to try to cash the check. The teller at Unbank asked for appellant's identification, asked him to put his thumbprint on the check, and began to process the check. Because the check was for a large amount, the teller called Big Foot 4x4 to verify it. A representative of Big Foot 4x4 informed the teller that the check was forged, and the teller called the police. After appellant had waited for the teller to process his check for about 30 minutes, St. Paul police officers arrived at the bank and arrested appellant for offering a forged check. In February 2012, appellant was charged with offering a forged check in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.631, subd. 3. A jury trial was held in August 2012.
St. Paul Police Officer Cara Hughes, one of the officers who responded to the Unbank teller's call, testified at trial. Officer Hughes explained that, when she arrived at Unbank, she asked appellant if he was cashing a check. When appellant answered that he was, Officer Hughes asked him where he got the check, and appellant told her that he received the check from a refund. Officer Hughes testified that appellant said he was not sure what kind of refund it was because he did "a lot of buying" on the internet.
Jason Urbanski, a sergeant with the St. Paul Police Department fraud and forgery unit, also testified at trial. Sergeant Urbanski first testified about the typical investigations that he conducts regarding check forgeries. He explained that an individual who presents a forged check wants to get it cashed immediately. The reason for cashing the check immediately is that, if the individual waited for the check to clear and did not take the money immediately, the check would be returned as invalid and the individual would not get any money.
Sergeant Urbanski next testified about an interview that he conducted with appellant on December 20, 2011. Sergeant Urbanski testified that appellant said that he had done some online shopping and received the check in the mail as a result of a sweepstakes for the shopping, but that appellant claimed he threw the envelope and other documentation accompanying the check into the garbage. Sergeant Urbanski explained that, in his experience dealing with sweepstakes scams, the individual who sends the check usually intends to make money from it. For example, the individual may include instructions for the recipient to mail back a portion of the check for taxes. The recipient then deposits the check into his or her account and mails the requested amount back. When the check is returned as invalid, the recipient loses the amount sent. Sergeant Urbanski contrasted that type of scenario with his experience in check forgery, where an individual cashes a check right away, instead of depositing it in an account, to obtain the funds before the check comes back as invalid. Finally, Sergeant Urbanski testified that, during the interview, appellant did not say anything about a bike or motorcycle refund. Big Foot 4x4's president testified at trial that fraud had been committed upon her company in the form of secret-shopper lottery scams. She stated that the lottery scams specifically asked the victims to mail money back to the sender.
The teller at Unbank who processed appellant's check and called the police also testified at trial. The teller explained that, when she received a check for a large sum like the one appellant presented, she was required by Unbank to ask the customer why he received the check. She testified that appellant told her that he bought a motorcycle, that he ...