South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Criminal Charges May Be Based on Adding Losses Inflicted on All Victims

Utah high court held that fraud over a period of time to get money from victims who fell for the scam was one scheme, and the losses could be added together to impose a harsher felony conviction.

Topic Criminal Law
Key Words

Scheme; Fraud; Felony; Misdemeanor

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Over three months, Bradshaw targeted and then defrauded 14 persons of about $500 each in a scheme where he claimed he would help the victims get better mortgages. The state charged Bradshaw with 11 counts of second degree felony communications fraud because it considered the acts to be part of a single "scheme" that added up to over $5,000 in losses. The trial court agreed that there was one scheme that exposed Bradshaw to conviction for 11 felonies, despite the fact that each victim's loss individually would have been a misdemeanor. Bradshaw appealed, contending that there was no "scheme" and that the charges should have been a misdemeanor for each victim. The appeals court agreed with him; the state appealed.


Reversed; the trial court's interpretation was correct. A "scheme" in the communications fraud statute refers to the overall design to defraud one or many by means of a common plan or technique. The acts must share a sufficient number of common elements to permit a reasonable person to conclude that they were part of a single criminal design. A series of acts aimed at obtaining one criminal objective constitutes a single scheme. For the purposes of determining the degree of the offense, the amount of monies obtained may be aggregated.


State v. Bradshaw, --- P.3d --- (2006 WL 3820468, Sup. Ct., Utah, 2006)

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