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18 U.S.C.S. § 659 provides in pertinent part that whoever embezzles, steals, or unlawfully takes, carries away, or conceals, or by fraud or deception obtains from any motor-truck with intent to convert to his own use any goods which are a part of an interstate or foreign shipment is guilty of an offense. In enacting § 659 Congress seeks to protect the channels of interstate commerce from interference. The statute must be construed broadly to accomplish this purpose. It is not limited in its application to the strictly defined offense of common law larceny. The stealing or unlawful taking contemplated by the statute consists of taking over possession and control with intent to convert to the use of the taker. The statute does not require physical removal of the goods, nor even asportation in the common law larceny sense. The felonious intent required by the statute consists of the intent to appropriate or convert the property of the owner. An intent to return the property does not exculpate the defendant.
Defendant Thomas Edwin Faulkner, who was a truck driver, picked up 105 refrigerators in San Diego that he was to transport to Hartford, Connecticut. He stopped and offered to sell the refrigerators to an owner of an appliance store in Las Vegas. The storeowner informed the police. Defendant negotiated a sale with the storeowner and in the process broke the truck's seals, entered the rear of the truck, and opened two cartons to display the refrigerators. The negotiations were unsuccessful and upon leaving the store defendant was arrested. He was convicted by a jury of embezzlement or theft from an interstate shipment, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 659. Defendant contended the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.
Was there sufficient evidence to support defendant’s conviction under 18 U.S.C.S. § 659?
The court affirmed the district court's judgment of conviction. The court held that § 659 did not require physical removal of the goods, nor even asportation in the common law larceny sense. There was sufficient evidence to establish defendant exercised dominion and control over the refrigerators by leaving his assigned route to go to the store and negotiate a sale. His breaking of the seals and opening of the cartons was competent evidence of intent.