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State v. Bradshaw

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

April 9, 2018

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,
v.
STACY ANN BRADSHAW, Appellant.

          Becker, J.

         To support a charge under the current forgery statute, the ! State must prove that the allegedly altered written instrument had "legal efficacy." Here, an escrow agent was convicted of forgery for altering a certificate of insurance to make it appear she had enough liability insurance to cover a transaction she had been hired to handle. We affirm the conviction against a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The certificate of insurance had legal efficacy both as a public record and as a foundation for legal liability.

         FACTS

         In 2014, appellant Stacy Bradshaw was a licensed escrow agent and the owner of North Sound Escrow. By law, an escrow agent must maintain several types of liability insurance. Bradshaw had coverage for crime as well as for errors and omissions through the insurance firm USI Kibble & Prentice. The limits were $1 million per claim.

         In February 2014, Bradshaw was retained as the escrow agent for the sale of commercial property for the price of approximately $1.4 million. Umpqua Bank was the lender for one of the parties. Umpqua asked Bradshaw for a copy of her insurance information. Bradshaw obtained a "Certificate of Liability Insurance" from Kibble & Prentice showing her limits of $1 million. She gave Umpqua a copy of the certificate that was altered to represent that Bradshaw had coverage limits of $2 million. Umpqua noticed the alterations and contacted both Kibble & Prentice and the Department of Financial Institutions, the agency that regulates escrow agents. This led to the prosecution of Bradshaw on one count of forgery.

         Bradshaw waived her right to a jury trial. The court convicted Bradshaw as charged and sentenced her to 40 hours of community service, $3,600 in financial restitution, and 6 months of community supervision. Bradshaw's appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence.

         ANALYSIS

         Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, it permits a rational trier of fact to find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Salinas, 119 Wn.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992).

         "At common law, forgery was the act of falsely making or materially altering, with intent to defraud, a writing 'which, if genuine, might apparently be of efficacy or the foundation of legal liability.'" State v. Smith, 72 Wn. App. 237, 239, 864 P.2d 406 (1993), quoting 4 Charles E. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Law§ 493 n.1, at 114-15 (14th ed. 1981). The forgery statute in effect from 1909 to, 1975, former RCW 9.44 (1909),[1] listed categories of documents that satisfied the legal efficacy requirement, such as money, public records, and court records. State v. Scoby, 117 Wn.2d 55, 59, 810 P.2d 1358, 815 P.2d 1362 (1991). Legislation revising the forgery statute in 1975 (removed the particularized list of categories of items susceptible to forgery. The current forgery statute simply prohibits the forgery of a "written instrument."

         A person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to injure or defraud:

(a) He or she falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument.
(b) He or she possesses, utters, offers, disposes of, or puts off as true a written instrument which he or she knows to be forged.

RCW9A.60.020(1).

         At Bradshaw's trial, the only issue was whether the certificate of insurance was a "written instrument." A written instrument is broadly ...


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