SW Legal studies in Business

E-Mailing Stolen Documents Is Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property
Description Trial court held that federal charges for transportation of stolen property across state lines applies to a case in which a company employee e-mailed valuable company documents across state lines in an effort to sell such documents to a competitor. The statute applies to all forms of property, including intangible property such as files.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Theft; Interstate Transportation; E-Mail
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Farraj was a paralegal at a law firm that represented plaintiffs in a suit against tobacco companies. In preparation for trial, the lawyers prepared a trial plan over 400 pages long that included strategy, deposition summaries, and lists of exhibits intended to be used. Farraj, accessing the plan on secure computers at the law firm, e-mailed 80 pages of the plan to the defense attorneys and offered to sell them the entire plan. The FBI was brought in to pose as a defense attorney to arrange the purchase. The agent met with Farraj, who was then arrested. He was charged with transporting stolen property across state lines. Farraj moved to have the charge dismissed, contending that the content of an e-mail is not "property." He contended that he transmitted information, not goods.

Motion denied. The trial plan "was the work product of a business relationship between client and attorney, and may thus be viewed as an ordinary subject of commerce, created for commercial purpose." The transmission of information by e-mail falls under the statute, since it does not specify how stolen property is transferred; e-mail is a form of electronic transfer across state lines. The trial plan, which is information, is intangible property. The statute prohibiting the transfer of stolen property across state lines does not distinguish between tangible and intangible property, so the statute covers this case.

Citation U.S. v. Farraj, 142 F.Supp.2d 484 (S.D. N.Y., 2001)

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