Brown v. Commonwealth


Defendant convicted by jury of theft by deception.  Defendant was accused of owning a car shop that made unnecessary repairs on cars and charged customers accordingly.  The state police set up an undercover operation where the car submitted to the shop had a transmission is that only required turning a screw three times to the right in order to repair.  Defendant told the undercover agents that transmission bands were overtightened and the entire transmission would need to be taken apart before knowing the extent of damage.  Defendant then stated that it would cost hundred to repair or replace the transmission.  Agents paid for the repair.  It was revealed that the transmission had actually been replaced by the mechanics, not repaired as had been ordered.


Whether conviction for theft by deception can be sustained where there is no element of reliance on the misrepresentation provided by the defendant.

Relevant Statute

“A person is guilty of theft by deception when he obtains property of another by deception with intent to deprive him thereof.  A person deceives when he intentionally; (a) creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind.”


No.  The relevant statute is silent on the issue of reliance.  However, the court holds that reliance on the misrepresentation is an essential element.

However, in this case the defendant made multiple misrepresentations.  The first was that the transmission was defective.  The detective did not rely on this misrepresentation.  The second is that he would repair the transmission, not replace it.  This misrepresentation was relied on by the detective.  Because of this, conviction is affirmed, as the defendant replaced the transmission with a used transmission, but did not reveal to the officer that he would do so or did in fact replace.

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