People v. Mahboubian

The Facts

Defendant accused of a staged theft, with an objective of taking $18.5M in insurance proceeds.  Defendant insured his art collection for the amount of $18.5M.  Defendant shipped the art to a vault in NYC.  Co-defendant solicited two experienced robberies for “an insurance job.”  However, one of the robbers was a police informant.  Co-defendant spoke on the phone multiple times with the chosen robbers and agreed to a price of $100K for the heist.  Defendant unusually marked the crate in which the art would be stored with his initials, while co-defendant mapped out the vault for the thieves.  The thieves began to place the pieces of the art into boxes, but had not finished. The thieves and co-defendant were arrested at that point, while the defendant was not charged until later after making “significant misrepresentations about his arrangements to ship and store his collection.”  They were charged with grand larceny.

Procedural History

Convicted at jury trial. Appeals on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence, in that the evidence does not support that they had advanced the crime to the point where it would be considered an attempted theft.

The Issue

Whether defendant can be convicted of an attempted grand larceny, where their preparation for the crime is provable but the commission of the crime does not fully ensue.

The Holding/Reasoning

Yes, conviction upheld.  Defendants did not go far enough to constitute an attempt.  The crime of grand larceny would have been complete if defendants attempted to collect on the insurance claim, which they did not.  The question is whether their conduct went “very near” commission of the crime, as is required by law.  “Where the boundary line between preparation and attempt should be placed differs with different crimes.”  In this case defendants shipped the card, hired burglars, and provided them with tools to commit the heist.  They conduct “passed that point where most men, holding such an intention as defendant holds, would think better of their conduct and desist.”  Another consideration for the court is whether their conduct was immediately dangerous.  The court holds that it was, as police intervention was called for in their preparation for the crime.  Additionally, their acts “had gone to the extent of placing it in their power to commit the offense unless interrupted.”  “These steps took defendants to the point where only a few comparatively minor acts – all wholly within defendants’ own power – remained to be accomplished.

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