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What is theft by false pretenses in North Carolina?

| Feb 15, 2021 | Criminal law

One of the lesser-known theft charges you can face in North Carolina is “obtaining property by false pretenses,” or OPFP.

At minimum, this crime is a Class H felony. If the value of the money, services or assets that were stolen through false pretenses exceeds $100,000, however, the crime then becomes a Class C felony. Either way, a conviction can lead to years in prison, hefty fines and a permanent criminal record that could haunt their future.

What does it mean to obtain property by false pretenses?

Essentially, this is theft by fraud. Some common examples include:

  • Pawning jewelry, guns, tools or other valuables that aren’t really yours to pawn
  • Entering into a “rent-to-own” agreement for furniture or a vehicle, knowing you have no intention of actually paying and then promptly moving with the items in tow
  • Taking cash to buy supplies for handyman work for someone and never actually buying the supplies or doing the work
  • Selling someone a painting that you know is a copy by pretending that it was an original piece of work

Intentional misrepresentation and lies are a key part of the OPFP charge.

What kind of defense can you offer against this charge?

Because this charge relies on some kind of intentional false representation, the main avenue of defense is to show that you did not intend to deceive anybody for personal gain. For example, maybe you pawned a family heirloom in the belief that it was rightfully yours — only to have another relative insist that it belonged to them and that you took it without permission.

In cases like these, it’s wise not to speak to the police or try to explain what happened until you speak to an attorney. The police may only hear what they want to hear — and that could leave you facing serious charges.