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The Appeals Court has ruled that merely cashing a forged check is insufficient for a criminal conviction under the state’s forgery statute (M.G.L. c. 267, § 5).

The case involved a woman who, at a Citizen’s Bank in Natick, cashed a $950 check made payable to herself.

The check went to the bank account of Phyllis Adams who did not write or sign the document.  Nor had Ms. Adams ever met the defendant.

Based on the fact that the defendant cashed the check, and nothing more, she was found guilty after a jury-waived bench trial.

The case was appealed and the Appeals Court reversed the lower court’s judgment. 

According to the Appeals Court opinion.

On these facts, we are presented with the following question: Is evidence that a defendant in an otherwise unremarkable bank transaction who cashed a check from a person who did not know the defendant and did not owe the defendant money, alone, sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the instrument was forged and acted with an intent to defraud? We conclude it is not.

Noting that it is not illegal to accept funds from one person with a check drawn from another person’s account, the court writes,

We do not think the recipient’s conduct of cashing such a check would suffice to demonstrate either an intent to defraud, or knowledge of forgery, beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth must show more.