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Criminal Resource Manual

1302. Motor Vehicle And Aircraft Theft -- Definition Of "Stolen"

The term "stolen" should not be construed in the technical sense of common law larceny. Stolen covers all theft offenses regardless of whether such was in the nature of larceny, embezzlement, or false pretenses. See United States v. Turley, 352 U.S. 407 (1957). See also Bell v. United States, 462 U.S. 356 (1983). What is required is a felonious taking or conversion of another's property right in the vehicle regardless of how the perpetrator may originally have come into possession of the vehicle. Although property interests obviously include the concepts of "title" and "possession," a financial company's "secured interest" in the vehicle has been deemed a sufficient property interest in the vehicle when the owner disposed of the vehicle contrary to the loan agreement. See United States v. Bunch, 399 F. Supp. 1156 (D.Md.), aff'd, 542 F.2d 629 (4th Cir. 1976). However, the statute does not cover situations where a person, engaging in a fraud upon the insurance company in concert with the vehicle's owner, disposes of a vehicle and the owner reports the vehicle as stolen since the insurance company had no property interest in the vehicle at the time of its disposal. See United States v. Bennett, 665 F.2d 16 (2d Cir. 1981). Moreover, the vehicle must retain its stolen character during the transportation under 18 U.S.C. § 2312 or the receipt, possession, concealment, storing, bartering, selling or disposal under 18 U.S.C. § 2313. It has been held that total recovery by law enforcement or the owner's agent, in contrast with merely being placed under observation by law enforcement, will terminate the stolen character. See United States v. Muzii, 676 F.2d 919 (2d Cir. 1982); United States v. Dove, 629 F.2d 325 (4th Cir. 1980). However, in the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Pub. Law 103-322, Congress enacted a provision, now codified at 18 U.S.C § 21, which provides that for purposes of title 18, whenever it is an element of an offense that property was stolen and defendant knew of its stolen character, such element can be established as a result of an "official representation" of its stolen character.

[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1305; Criminal Resource Manual 1377; USAM 9-61.100]