National Stolen Property Act"Falsely Made,
Altered, or Counterfeited"
Although the terms "altered" and "counterfeited" are reasonably
comprehensible, the same is not true with the terms "falsely made" and
which are very complex under existing case law interpreting 18 U.S.C.
2314 and 2315. The term "altered" applies to those situations where a
perpetrator changes a material fact on an existing security (e.g., increases
amount from $500 to $50,000, substitutes another name for that of the
payee, etc.). The term "counterfeit" also normally encompasses the
reproduction of some existing document.|
There is a considerable split within the circuits as to the
between "falsely made" and "forged," with the better view being that they
constitute different means or methods of violating the statute. See
United States v. Hagerty, 561 F.2d 1197 (5th Cir. 1977); United
v. Tucker, 473 F.2d 1290 (6th Cir. 1973); Stinson v. United
316 F.2d 554 (5th Cir. 1963); Pine v. United States, 123 F.2d 825
Cir. 1941). Although there is considerable disagreement as to the type of
conduct encompassed within each term (see 4 A.L.R.Fed. 793), there is
general agreement that these terms comprehend falsity in the execution or
on the face of the writing rather than falsity of any facts set forth on the
of the writing. In other words, the document was actually issued by a
was without the authority to so issue or it was issued contrary to his
to issue. See United States v. Simpson, 577 F.2d 78 (9th Cir.
1978); Streett v. United States, 331 F.2d 151 (8th Cir. 1961).
generally relates to the unauthorized use of the purported maker's signature
while the term "falsely made" relates to any execution of a document drawn
either an existing or non-existing entity where there is no authority to so
issue. See United States v. Lipscomb, 546 F.2d 787 (8th Cir.
1975); Pines v. United States, 123 F.2d 825. Hence, when a person
out a stolen blank money order, he is falsely making the security.
United States v. Smith, 426 F.2d 275 (6th Cir. 1970). As noted
previously, there is no minimum monetary value for a falsely made, forged,
altered, or counterfeit security or tax stamp.
The following situations have been held not to constitute a
of that portion of the statute dealing with falsely made or forged
- Where a check is drawn by the maker in his own name on
a bank in which he has no funds or no account (i.e., true name check).
See Hall v. United States, 372 F.2d 603, 607 (4th Cir. 1967);
United States v. Melvin, 316 F.2d 647 (7th Cir. 1963). Hence,
insufficient funds check cases are exclusively within the province of state
(Note: If the fraudulently obtained property had a value of $5,000 or more
was subsequently transported in interstate or foreign commerce, there would
a violation of the first paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 2314.)
- Where a fictitious name is used by the drawer, but it is the name
which he generally is known or by which he is known to the payee, and in
the check in this manner he does not intend to falsify his identity.
United States v. Greever, 116 F. Supp. 755 (D.D.C. 1953); United
v. Gallagher, 94 F. Supp. 640 (W.D.Pa. 1950).
- Where the signature itself shows the signer is acting in the
of agent or trustee. See 41 A.L.R. 229; Gilbert v. United
370 U.S. 650 (1962).
- Where a validly executed instrument contains a forged endorsement.
See Prussian v. United States, 282 U.S. 675 (1931); United
States v. Roby, 499 F.2d 151 (10th Cir. 1974); Streett v. United
States, 331 F.2d 151. The Streett case held that the
on a traveler's check is, in effect, a first endorsement and that a
check issued for value to a purchaser does not thereafter become a forged
security by reason of the forgery of the purchaser's countersignature.
See this Manual at 1324.
A "blank" traveler's check is a security as it has on it all the
necessary indicia prior to issuance. Hence, when blank traveler's checks
stolen and a thief subsequently filled in a name (whether his own or someone
else's), it has been held that such an instrument was falsely made and
since the perpetrator lacked the authority to issue the check. See
United States v. Law, 435 F.2d 1264 (5th Cir. 1970); United States
v. Franco, 413 F.2d 282 (5th Cir. 1969). However, in recent
some traveler's check issuers no longer require that the purchaser sign the
checks in the presence of the issuing clerk. Consequently, some traveler's
checks are now issued in blank (i.e., no specified payee) and are bearer
instruments at the time of issuance. It may be hard to distinguish between
traveler's checks stolen before issuance and those stolen after issuance.
Moreover, because of change in business procedures, the rationale of the
Streett case (18 U.S.C. § 2314 covers only the false making of
instrument, not its false endorsement) and the holder-in-due-course doctrine
bearer securities, courts may be less likely to hold that the false filling
of the payee's signature (i.e., original purchaser) is presently covered by
[cited in USAM 9-61.200]