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Forgery in 18 U.S.C.S. § 2314 means what the term meant under common law in 1823. Common law forgery has three elements: the false making or material alteration, with intent to defraud, of a writing, which if genuine, might be of legal efficacy.
Appellants developed a scheme to defraud the seller of traveler's checks. One appellant purchased the checks, the second appellant negotiated them by signing the first appellant's name, and the first appellant reported the traveler's checks as stolen. Appellants were convicted of transporting traveler's checks bearing a forged countersignature in interstate or foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2314. On appeal, appellants argued that because the second appellant had the authority from the first appellant to sign the traveler's checks, this fact defeated the charge of forgery, which was a predicate to the federal statutory offense.
Did the appellants conduct constitute a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314?
Under paragraph four of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, whoever, with unlawful or fraudulent intent, transported in interstate or foreign commerce any traveler's checks bearing a forged countersignature shall be fined or imprisoned or both. Forgery in § 2314 meant what the term meant under common law in 1823. Common law forgery has three elements: (a) The false making or material alteration (b) with intent to defraud (c) of a writing which, if genuine, might be of legal efficacy. In this case, the court found that appellant, who purchased the traveler's checks, could not give authority to the other appellant to sign the checks on his behalf and, therefore, that attempted negotiation of the checks by the second appellant, accompanied by his intent to defraud, constituted common law forgery, the predicate of the federal statutory offense of transporting forged traveler's checks. Accordingly, appellants’ convictions were affirmed.