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Understanding Theft by Deception in Pennsylvania

April 30, 2023

A little-known type of theft was recently reported. That is theft by deception and a Pennsylvania couple is now facing charges after lying about the death of a child.

Kaycee and Geoffrey Lang faked the birth and death of their son on July 3. It was on the same day Kaycee posted a picture to social media of her son, saying he tragically died hours after the birth. The couple started a GoFundMe page, stating they wanted to buy a customized urn for their child. The page had raised $550 before suspicions were raised. Police searched the couple’s home and found the doll they had used in the photos, claiming it was their son. Shortly after, they were charged with theft by deception.

So, what exactly is this crime?

Theft by Deception Explained

Theft by deception is covered under Title 18, Section 3922 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. This statute defines the offense as intentionally obtaining or withholding another person’s property by deceiving them. There are three instances in which a person may face theft by deception charges. They are:

  • When a person creates or reinforces a false impression about an intention, a law, or another state of mind.
  • When a person prevents someone else from acquiring information that would affect their judgement about a transaction.
  • When a person fails to correct a false or mistaken impression they had created, or that they know will influence a person with whom they have a fiduciary relationship.

Not all false statements or deception is considered a crime, however. If the false statements had no financial significance, or the statements were exaggerated and a reasonable person would not accept them as truth, this is not theft by deception.

Penalties for Theft by Deception

Theft by deception is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. The penalties associated with it vary depending on the value of the goods or money stolen. Typically, the sentences for this crime are as follows:

  • Fewer than $50: A misdemeanor of the third degree with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $2,500 fine
  • Between $50 and $200: A misdemeanor in the second degree with penalties of up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine
  • Between $200 and $2,000: A misdemeanor in the first degree, carrying sentences of a maximum five years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000
  • Over $2,000: A felony of the third degree, with sentences including up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000

Along with these penalties, anyone with a theft charge on their criminal record will likely find it very difficult to obtain employment. Nearly all employers perform background checks on employees. When they see a theft charge on someone’s record, employers are hesitant to hire that person because they are afraid the employee will steal from them.

Don’t Let a Theft Charge Ruin Your Life! Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys

Charges of theft by deception, or any other type of theft charge, require an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know not everyone charged is guilty of a crime. We also know people sometimes make mistakes, and they shouldn’t have to pay for those for the rest of their life. If you’ve been charged with a crime, call us today at (215) 486-0123 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.


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