The opinion of the court was delivered by: JUDD
Defendant Rosenthal has moved to dismiss the indictment against him for failure to state an offense under federal law.
The indictment charges violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314 by conspiracy to transport and substantive acts of transportation in interstate commerce of "falsely made and forged securities, to wit, fraudulent New York State Motor Vehicle Registration Certificates, evidencing ownership or interest in Motor Vehicles, knowing the same to have been falsely made and forged."
The statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2314, imposes punishment for a felony, regardless of the amount involved, on anyone who
with unlawful or fraudulent intent, transports in interstate or foreign commerce any falsely made, forged, altered, or counterfeited securities or tax stamps, knowing the same to have been falsely made, forged, altered, or counterfeited.
The word "securities" for purposes of the stolen property chapter of the Criminal Code is broadly defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2311 to include any "certificate of interest in property" or "instrument or document or writing evidencing ownership of goods, wares, and merchandise." The complete definition reads as follows:
"Securities" includes any note, stock certificate, bond, debenture, check, draft, warrant, traveler's check, letter of credit, warehouse receipt, negotiable bill of lading, evidence of indebtedness, certificate of interest or participation in any profit-sharing agreement, collateral-trust certificate, preorganization certificate or subscription, transferable share, investment contract, voting-trust certificate; certificate of interest in property, tangible or intangible; instrument or document or writing evidencing ownership of goods, wares, and merchandise, or transferring or assigning any right, title, or interest in or to goods, wares, and merchandise; or, in general, any instrument commonly known as a "security", or any certificate of interest or participation in, temporary or interim certificate for, receipt for, warrant, or right to subscribe to or purchase any of the foregoing, or any forged, counterfeited, or spurious representation of any of the foregoing;
Defendant nevertheless argues that the definition of "securities" should be construed to exclude New York Motor Vehicle Registration Certificates because (1) the legislative history supports a narrow interpretation, (2) the statute has been construed narrowly with respect to other portions of the definition, (3) federal punishment of the offense would duplicate or interfere with state law, (4) a registration certificate is not a certificate of title under New York law, and (5) the penalty for interstate transportation of a security is out of proportion to the crime involved.
None of these reasons is persuasive.
1. The interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles was first forbidden by the Dyer Act, now 18 U.S.C. § 2312, in 1919. It may be noted that the offense was made a felony regardless of the value of the stolen vehicle. The prohibition against interstate transportation of stolen property was extended in 1934 to other types of property, including securities, by the National Stolen Property Act, now the first paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, but the federal crime was limited to transportation of property valued at $5,000 or more, a limitation which still appears in the first paragraph of Section 2314. The 1934 act defined "securities" in substantially the present terms as including any "certificate of interest in property, tangible or intangible." In 1939, the National Stolen Property Act was amended to include transportation of falsely made or forged securities and tax stamps, as well as those which were stolen. The requirement of a $5,000 value with respect to stolen property was not included with respect to forged securities, which are now covered by the third paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 2314. Defendant points out that the minimum value provision in the original House bill was eliminated because of a statement by the Attorney General that
criminals who engage in forging or counterfeiting certificates do not ordinarily subject themselves to the hazards involved in such a nefarious undertaking, except for the purpose of multiplying the forged certificates on a large scale,
S. Rep. No. 674, 76th Cong., 1st Sess. 2 (1939), and argues that it is therefore only mass-produced forgeries which the statute was intended to punish.
Although defendant's argument shows careful scholarship, it does not provide a basis for ignoring the clear definition of "securities" in 18 U.S.C. § 2311, or the absence of a value requirement in Section 2314. Assuming, arguendo, that printed registration certificates are not mass-produced, Congress did not limit the prohibition against ...