The primary offense the Manhattan District Attorney will likely include in the indictment against former President Donald Trump is “Falsification of commercial records of the first degree” A felony under New York State law (NY Penal Code § 175.10). Prosecutors, and indeed all of us, are compelled by the rule of law to consider how this charge compares to previous prosecutions. Are similar cases treated equally?
And here they seem to be. Prosecuting first-degree falsification of business records is common and has been used by New York County Attorneys’ offices to prosecute a wide range of criminal behavior from the most frivolous and simple to the more serious and highly organized. We came to this conclusion after surveying criminal cases over the past decade and a half in all New York County district attorneys’ offices.
The table below provides full details of the many examples of cases we identified in our survey. A sample of representative antecedents includes:
- People of the State of New York v. Jose Aguilar Dupont, aka Saadi Dupont, aka Alejandro Ortiz (October 2022) — A Bronx business owner has been charged with failing to report income of more than $1 million and avoiding paying $60,000 in taxes.
- New York State People v. Scott Kirtland (February 2022) – An insurance broker has been indicted for allegedly creating/providing fraudulent liability insurance certificates for further fraud planning.
- People of New York State v. James Garner (November 2021) — A mental health treatment aide has been indicted for allegedly defrauding more than $35,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
- New York State People v. Jose Palmer (November 2016) – He pleaded guilty to petty theft for defrauding unemployment benefits in excess of $3,000, after initially being charged with first-degree theft and falsifying business records.
- New York State People vs. Jason Holley (November 2016) – Convicted by a jury of falsifying business records in the first degree but acquitted of the original offense of insurance fraud.
- People of New York State v. Christina Murray (May 2015) & People v. Terrel Murray (May 2014) – A married couple convicted of a home fire insurance claim try to recover the cash value of various items of property that were apparently lost in the fire.
- People of New York State v. Barbara A. Freeland (June 2013) – She was found guilty of falsely claiming in her food stamp application that a young adult was living with her.
- People of New York State v. Maria F. Ramirez (August 2010) – Convicted of returning unpurchased items to a store for store credit, causing a wrong entry in the commercial register of an establishment, and using store credit to purchase additional items one day.
Before moving on to the full table listing these and many other cases, we provide a brief description of the applicable law. In New York, the criminal law for falsifying business records is found in Section 175 of the New York Penal Code. The offense of falsifying business records can be committed in the second degree, which is a Class A misdemeanor (NYC § 175.05), or in the first degree, which is a Class E felony (NYC § 175.10).
An individual is “guilty of falsifying business records in the second degree when, with intent to defraud, he:
- makes or causes a wrong entry in the business records of the Corporation; or
- Alter, erase, obliterate, delete, remove or destroy an actual entry in the business records of the Corporation; or
- neglects to make an actual entry in the business records of the Corporation in breach of a duty to do which he knows is imposed on him by law or by the nature of his office; or
- Prevents or causes an actual entry to be omitted in the corporation’s commercial records.” New York Penal Code § 175.05
An individual is considered “guilty of falsifying commercial records in the first degree when he commits the crime of falsifying commercial records in the second degree, and when his intent to defraud includes the intent to commit, assist, or conceal the commission of another crime.” New York Penal Code § 175.10.
For Trump to be prosecuted for the felony violation of falsifying business records, the law requires the attorney general to prove not only that Trump was guilty of falsifying business records (a misdemeanor), but that he did so with the intent to commit “another crime.” or assisting or concealing the commission of an “other crime”.
A table of dozens of cases is provided in the 24-page Scribd file below along with the Separate PDF file online.