South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State Must Show Defendant Involved in Stolen Goods Deal to Obtain Inference of Knowledge of Legality of Transaction
Description Appeals court reversed a conviction of a pawnshop owner for dealing in stolen goods. The state must provide evidence that the owner was personally involved in a transaction for stolen goods for there to be an inference made to the jury that he knew the property was stolen.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Evidence; Factual Showing; RICO; Personal Involvement; Pawn Shop
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Tatum ran a pawnshop. Police became suspicious of one of Tatum’s employees, Newton, who was engaged in illegal fencing activities with known burglars. Undercover detectives gained Newton’s confidence and sold him and Tatum some jewelry. Evidence was presented at trial that Tatum knew or should have known that the jewelry was stolen. He was convicted of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for conspiring to deal in stolen property. He was sentenced to seven and one-half years in prison. His criminal intent was based on his and Newton’s dealings with the undercover officers during the sting operation. Tatum appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The law states that if the state proves that a dealer in property purchases or sells stolen property “out of the regular course of business or without the usual indicia of ownership other than mere possession” an inference arises that the person buying or selling the property knew or should have known that the property was stolen. To support such a conviction, the state must make a factual showing in its evidence that Tatum personally conducted a transaction with an undercover officer that involved stolen property. Otherwise the state was not entitled to the benefit of the statutory inference that Tatum knew the property was stolen. Tatum must be shown to have had personal possession of stolen property, not merely a presumption that he was in possession of the property because it was in his pawnshop.

Citation Tatum v. State of Florida, --- So.2d --- (2003 WL 22335030, Dist. Ct. App., Fla., 2003)

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