Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property

Title 18, section 2314 of the U.S. Code is violated whenever a person (1) has knowledge that certain property has been stolen or obtained by fraud, and (2) transports the property, or causes it to be transported, in interstate commerce. Pereira v. United States, 347 U.S. 1, 9 (1954). The stereotypical violation of section 2314 occurs in the context of stolen vehicles. For example, a defendant steals a car in Minneapolis and drives it to a chop-shop in Chicago, where he sells the car or cars and pockets the cash.

Section 2314, however, is a broad statute. Although the statute is popularly referred to as the Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property Act, the statute not only prohibits the interstate transportation of stolen property, but prohibits the interstate transportation of “any goods, wares, merchandise, securities or money, of the value of $5000 or more.” The inclusion of “money” as an item of stolen property that cannot be lawfully transported in the interstate commerce greatly expands the scope of the act. The statute is arguably violated whenever a scheme to defraud results in a check (representing stolen money) being draw on an out-of-state bank. For example, a defendant in Minneasota calls a victim in California and tells the victim that if she sends him $5000 she will get a car worth $50000. The victim sends a check drawn on a bank in California. The defendant receives the check and negotiates it at a Minnesota bank. The funds are ultimately transferred via the interstate banking system from the victim’s bank account in California to the defendant’s bank account in Minnesota. The defendant never receives the promised car, so there is no property (let alone stolen) property that crosses state lines. Nonetheless, the statute is still violated because the defendant essentially stole $5000 from the victim and caused it to be transported across interstate lines through the interstate banking system. Accordingly, whenever a victim and defendant are located in different states, one should carefully analyze the flow of money because stolen money may very well cross state lines and may give rise to a violation of section 2314.

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