A core crime that the Manhattan District Attorney will likely include in an indictment of former President Donald Trump is “falsifying business records in the first degree,” a felony under New York State law (N.Y. Penal Code § 175.10). Prosecutors and indeed all of us are compelled by the rule of law to consider how such a charge compares to past prosecutions. Are like cases being treated alike?
Here it appears they are. Prosecution of falsifying business records in the first degree is commonplace and has been used by New York district attorneys’ offices to hold to account a breadth of criminal behavior from the more petty and simple to the more serious and highly organized. We reach this conclusion after surveying the past decade and a half of criminal cases across all the New York district attorneys’ offices.
The Table below provides full details of many examples of cases we identified in the survey. A sample of representative precedents includes:
- The People of the State of New York v. Josue Aguilar Dubon, AKA Saady Dubon, AKA Alejandro Ortiz (October 2022) — Bronx business owner indicted for failing to report over $1 million in income, avoiding paying $60,000 in taxes.
- The People of the State of New York v. Scott Kirtland (February 2022) — Insurance broker indicted for allegedly creating/filing fraudulent certificates of liability insurance to further scheme to defraud.
- The People of the State of New York v. James Garner (November 2021) — Mental health therapy aide indicted for allegedly defrauding over $35,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
- The People of the State of New York v. Jose Palmer (November 2016) — Pleaded guilty to petit larceny for unemployment benefits fraud of over $3,000, having initially been indicted for grand larceny and falsifying business records in the first degree.
- The People of the State of New York v. Jason Holley (November 2016) — Convicted by jury of falsifying business records in the first degree but acquitted of the predicate crime, insurance fraud.
- The People of the State of New York v. Christina Murray (May 2015) & People v. Terrel Murray (May 2014) — Married couple convicted of house fire insurance claim, attempting to recover the cash value of various items of property that were ostensibly lost in the fire.
- The People of the State of New York v. Barbara A. Freeland (June 2013) — Convicted for falsely claiming on a food stamps application that a young adult lived with her.
- The People of the State of New York v. Maria F. Ramirez (August 2010) — Convicted for returning unpurchased items to a store in exchange for store credit, thus causing a false entry in a business record of an enterprise, and using the store credit to purchase additional items one day.
Before turning to the full Table listing these and many other cases, we offer a brief description of the applicable law. In New York, the criminal law on falsifying business records is found at Article 175 of New York’s penal code. The crime of falsifying business records can be committed in the second degree, which is a class A misdemeanor (N.Y. Penal Code § 175.05), or in the first degree, which is a class E felony (N.Y. Penal Code § 175.10).
An individual is “guilty of falsifying business records in the second degree when, with intent to defraud, he:
- makes or causes a false entry in the business records of an enterprise; or
- alters, erases, obliterates, deletes, removes or destroys a true entry in the business records of an enterprise; or
- omits to make a true entry in the business records of an enterprise in violation of a duty to do so which he knows to be imposed upon him by law or by the nature of his position; or
- prevents the making of a true entry or causes the omission thereof in the business records of an enterprise.” N.Y. Penal Code § 175.05
An individual “is guilty of falsifying business records in the first degree when he commits the crime of falsifying business records in the second degree, and when his intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.” N.Y. Penal Code § 175.10.
For Trump to be prosecuted for felony violation of falsifying business records, the statute requires the DA to prove not only that Trump is guilty of falsifying business records (a misdemeanor), but that he did so with the intent to commit “another crime,” or aiding or concealing the commission of “another crime.”
The Table of dozens of cases is provided in the 24-page Scribd file below as well as a separate online PDF.