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State v. Mr. S (DMC No. 13832)

FELONY FORGERY NOT CHARGED – State v. Mr. S (DMC No. 13832) (Chandler Police Department and Scottsdale Police Department Investigated): The investigations in this matter began because Mr. S was a 47-year-old man who was at the tail end of a bitter and contentious divorce with his wife of 10 years. During the divorce, the wife contacted both the Chandler Police Department and the Scottsdale Police Department to make allegations of Forgery per Arizona Revised Statute ARS 13-2002 against her ex-husband. Specifically, the wife alleged that Mr. S had forged her name, and a notarization of her name, on a deed to a piece of property in another state. She further claimed that Mr. S had obtained approximately $250,000 for the sale of the property after forging her signature. The wife had done a fair amount of research including digging up documentation in the other state and contacting the individual in Maricopa County who was shown as the notary public on the documents. She further spoke with the Notary Public and advised him that if he did not file a police report that he might be viewed as complicit in the Forgery in some manner. That individual filed yet another police report with the Scottsdale Police Department. A necessary part of the claim by her was that the property was community property and she was therefore being defrauded of her rightful property by her ex-husband.

The Scottsdale and Chandler Detectives conducted investigations which they reviewed documentation and contacted two different notary agents. They then tried to contact Mr. S by phone unsuccessfully. They were advised by the wife that Mr. S was going to have a supervised visitation with his children and they made arrangements to be there and confront him at that time. The Chandler Detectives then confronted Mr. S at his scheduled visitation time and questioned him about the case. Mr. S was questioned prior to receiving his Miranda warnings and gave answers that were not inculpatory, but did not satisfy Detectives. They subsequently arrested Mr. S and took him into custody for further questioning. After advising Mr. S, of his Miranda warnings Mr. S refused to make any other statements. Both police departments then referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to file Forgery charges.

Upon being retained, our Pre-Charge team took several steps. After consulting about the case, we immediately sent a letter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office advising that we represented Mr. S and that if charges were submitted to the grand jury, Mr. S requested that they be advised that he wished to appear and testify. We also reached out to the police and made initial contact so they know that we represented Mr. S for all future purposes. We requested copies of the various reports from the two different agencies.

Our research of the case revealed that we had certain strengths and weaknesses. First, there appeared to be documents that had clearly been forged or altered once they were notarized. Those documents had then been filed with the recorder in another state to memorialize a land sale. Second, the only logical beneficiary of such Forgery was in fact our client. However, it appeared that the wife had made statements that were either untruthful or inaccurate to the police with regards to the property. She had indicated to the police that the land was community property.  In fact, the land appear to have always been Mr. S’s sole and personal property, as it was acquired as an inheritance. In the ongoing divorce proceedings, the civil court had confirmed that fact by awarding that land to Mr. S as his sole and separate property. This led to the next issue, which were the elements needed for Forgery. Specifically Forgery requires an intent to defraud another person. We were then able to draft letter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office providing them with a copy of the decree of dissolution of marriage, which we were able to verify that the land was Mr. S’s sole and separate property.

In our letter, we advised the County Attorney that this information should be provided to a grand jury, should a grand jury be reviewing the case. We were subsequently able to confirm through the police departments, as well as to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, that charges had been “turned down.” We were also advised that our information was instrumental in obtaining this result.

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