Certain fraud crimes have a lot of similarities, but are treated very differently. Two examples of this are forgery offenses and tampering with records.

Forgery involves altering or creating a document for some fraudulent gain. Tampering with records is another crime that covers putting false information on official documents. Depending on the facts, you could face both charges for a single incident. For instance, since record tampering is considered less severe, you may be offered a plea deal for a record tampering conviction in exchange for the forgery charge being withdrawn.

Record Tampering & Forgery Case in Chester County

The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division arrested 30-year-old Conshohocken resident Patrick Maxwell Rose and Vincent Alfred Trotta III, of Staten Island, New York on several charges, including nine forgery counts and one count of tampering with records in October, reports More Than the Curve.

The two worked at a commercial business in Westtown Township, and were allegedly involved in the theft of more than $200,000 from January 2017 to November 2018. Police claim funds were stolen from the company and its employees.

Forgery and Public Records Tampering

Forgery occurs if someone knowingly, and with the intent to defraud or injure:

  • Changes another’s writing without that person’s consent
  • Makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers a writing so it appears to be from another person who did not authorize that act; the writing appears to be executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than what actually happened; or to create what seems to be a copy of an original when no original existed
  • Uses a writing which the person knows was forged

The accused must intend to defraud another, though the other person need not be fooled by the document for a crime to be committed.
Pennsylvania law makes basic forgery a misdemeanor, but it becomes a felony depending on the document being faked, including a document issued by the government.

Public records tampering is usually a misdemeanor except when the false records are intended to defraud or injure someone when it becomes a felony. A conviction could include a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Pennsylvania law states you can be charged with tampering with a public record if you knowingly:

  • Make a false entry into a record for the government or a document required by law, or
  • Change the veracity of such a record, or
  • Use such a document, even if you weren’t the one who tampered with it

The person arrested must know the information is false. You can be arrested even if you didn’t intend any harm. Just a small change could be enough to violate the law.

You Probably Face More Than One Charge

If you’re arrested for forgery, and it’s related to a government document, you could face both charges, like Mr. Rose. Often the prosecution includes the most serious crime along with lesser included offenses that fit the facts of the case.

This is done for a couple of reasons.

  • If the case goes to trial, the jury may not convict you of the most serious crime but will agree to find you guilty of a lesser included charge. This way the prosecution gets a partial win.
  • It also helps when negotiating a plea agreement. In exchange for not going to trial, a defendant may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge (like tampering with a document) if the more serious charge (forgery) is dropped. Both sides avoid the uncertainty of a trial, the prosecution gets a partial win, and the defendant won’t face a more serious sentence

A Plea May Be Your Best Option

Plea bargaining generally involves three approaches:

  • Charge Bargaining: This is where a guilty plea to a lesser charge is negotiated with an easier sentence in exchange for not pursuing a more serious charge
  • Sentence Bargaining: Agreeing to plead guilty to the stated charge in return for a lighter sentence
  • Fact Bargaining: Admission to specific facts so the prosecution need not prove them at trial in return for the prosecution not introducing other facts into evidence. The facts not introduced may prevent or make it difficult to make a conviction of a higher charge or a longer sentence

Fairly few criminal charges are resolved through trials. Defense attorneys may try to get charges dismissed on technical grounds, evidentiary issues, or due to constitutional protections. If that doesn’t work, most cases end through a plea bargain. If you’re arrested, you need an experienced negotiator to get you the best plea bargain possible. It might be the right way to address your situation.

Contact a Chester County White Collar Crime Lawyer

If you are charged with a white collar crime in southeastern Pennsylvania, contact the Skinner Law Firm so we can discuss the facts of your case in a free and confidential consultation at (610) 436-1410.

We may be able to reduce your charges or have them dismissed. Finding an experienced attorney who knows Pennsylvania white collar crime law could help you avoid severe punishment. Call or send us an online message today if you are facing a white collar charge in or around Chester County.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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