Criminal Justice

Lawyer who tried to cash scammer's $280K check loses appeal of conviction; he said he was joking

A California lawyer who said he was only joking when he tried to cash a fake check sent by an apparent email scammer has lost an appeal of his conviction.

Marc Weissman, 58, of Foster City, was sentenced to probation after his conviction in 2012 for burglary and check fraud, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Last Thursday, California’s First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the conviction.

The appeals court, in its unpublished opinion (PDF), rejected Weissman’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The court said jurors “evidently disbelieved” Weissman’s claim that he was joking when he tried to cash a $280,000 check. The prosecution case “if believed, was strong,” the court said.

A teller at Chase Bank had testified Weissman never said he was joking when he presented the check in January 2011 and asked to cash it, according to the opinion. The teller said he informed Weissman the check was fraudulent and the check needed to be confiscated, and Weissman again said he wanted to cash it. When Weissman demanded a closer look at the check, the teller said, the teller held it up at a distance and Weissman tried to grab it. Weissman stormed out of the bank without the check, the teller said, then returned and demanded that the teller call police. A supervisor who got involved also said Weissman did not appear to be joking.

Weissman had testified he knew he was being scammed when he received an email, purportedly from a woman named Karen Clark, saying her ex-husband would be sending him a $290,000 check for “partial payment.” Weissman said he didn’t know either person and he wanted to “turn a scam on a scammer.”

The email read: “Dear Marc Weissman. Good day to you. Work has been highly demanding over here lately. This is to inform you that my ex-husband, David Barker, has just confirmed to me that he has made a partial payment of $290,000 in your firm’s name. He said his job currently took him to Canada and certified funds was mailed from there. He also opines that funds will get to you today. Do confirm to me upon receipt of the funds. Please note that as soon as you receive the funds you are to deduct all of your charging fees and have the balance sent to me. Once again, thank you so much for making this happen. Awaiting your response, Karen Clark.”

When he received a check for $280,000, Weissman told police, he called Chase Bank to verify whether it was fraudulent, and the bank suggested he bring in the check. At the bank, Weissman testified, bank managers were unavailable so he approached a teller who asked if he could help. Weissman says he responded, “Sure, I would like to cash this check.” Weissman testified the comment was just his “odd sense of humor” and he didn’t think the teller took him seriously.

The teller left to discuss the matter with a supervisor, causing Weissman to become angry because his time was being wasted, Weissman testified. When it became apparent the teller would not return the check, Weissman acknowledges, he tried to pull the check out of his hand.

On appeal, Weissman argued that no reasonable jury would believe Weissman actually thought he could cash a $280,000 check at a bank where he didn’t have an account. The appeals court rejected the argument.

“Defendant cites no authority for the assertion that the intent to defraud necessarily includes ‘a subsidiary element of belief in the possibility of obtaining a wrongful monetary benefit,’ ” the appeals court said.

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