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1650. Protection Of Government Property -- Government Checks

A government check remains government property as long as the paying officer has the power to recall it. See England v. United States, 174 F.2d 466 (5th Cir. 1949); Clark v. United States, 268 F. 329, 333 (6th Cir. 1920). Therefore, 18 U.S.C. § 641 applies to the theft of a government check until that check is delivered to the payee. See United States v. Forcellati, 610 F.2d 25 (1st Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 944 (1980); United States v. Edwards, 473 F. Supp. 81 (D.Mass. 1979); see United States v. Lee, 454 F.2d 190 (9th Cir. 1972). Theft of a check from the mail or from a mailbox may also violate 18 U.S.C. §§  1702 and 1708. See Whiteside v. United States, 346 F.2d 500 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 1023 (1965). Once a check is delivered to its payee 18 U.S.C. § 641 no longer applies. A theft of the check in any subsequent mailings would be covered only by 18 U.S.C. §§ 1702 and 1708. See 31 U.S.C. § 528(b)(1). Of course, false endorsement of a government check or the possession of a government check bearing a false endorsement may also violate 18 U.S.C. §§ 495 and 510.

[cited in JM 9-66.200]

Updated January 17, 2020