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Theft By Deception

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Is it theft if you hand your keys to someone who turns out not to be a valet?

A customer drove up to a restaurant in Daytona Beach and handed the keys to her Mercedes to the guy at the valet stand, who said he'd bring the valet ticket right to her table. You guessed it, she's still waiting for that ticket. He drove away with the car.

But if the Mercedes owner handed him the keys, is it still theft?

Well, if the owner were a billionaire like singer Travey McCoy and wanted to "give away a few Mercedes like here, lady, have this" then it would have been a gift and would not be a crime. But as you can imagine, the owner wasn't nearly so generous but instead was clearly deceived into handing her keys to a person with the express understanding that he'd bring it back.

Because of the type and value of what he took, he was booked for grand theft auto - but the crime of theft by deception can be for something as mundane as writing a check you know you don't have the funds to cover, taking a deposit for services that you don't perform, or renting property that you don't return.

And then you really will need to be a billionaire to afford the lawyer to represent you.

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