Appeals Court (May 22, 2007)

A thief who is charged only with receiving the stolen goods may properly be convicted of that crime.

Posing as a potential purchaser of her real estate, the defendant befriended the 79-year-old victim in Rhode Island. During a series of visits, he expressed interest in viewing her jewelry. She complied. Some time later, she noticed certain items - a broach, pin, bracelet and ring - were missing from her jewelry box. The victim had never told anyone, other than the victim, where she kept her jewelry. She did not report the crime to the police.

Later that year, while browsing in a consignment shop in Seekonk, the victim saw her stolen jewelry displayed for sale. She immediately called the police, who arrested the defendant when he showed up at the shop later that day.

The police charged the defendant with two counts of receiving stolen property. He was convicted and appealed, arguing that because the evidence suggested that he was the actual thief, he could not be convicted of receiving. The court disagreed. It noted that most case law in this area involves defendants who have been tried and improperly convicted on charges of both larceny and receiving. In this case, the defendant was charged only with receiving. Modifying its earlier ruling in Commonwealth v. Janvrin, 44 Mass.App.Ct. 917, 918 (1998), the court held that where the evidence suggests that the defendant was the thief and would support a conviction for larceny, the defendant may properly be convicted of receipt of stolen goods arising from the same events if the evidence supports that conviction as well. This jury, presented only with a charge of receipt that was supported by the evidence, properly returned a conviction even though the evidence would also have supported a charge of theft, albeit not within the borders of the Commonwealth.