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Name: People v. Johnson
Case #: D059511
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/27/2012

Operators of a nonprofit group home that receives government funds can be charged with misappropriation of public funds because the use of the money is regulated by the government. Defendants were operators of T-Town, a group home in Riverside, which received state and federal operating funds. Upon a state audit, it was discovered that defendants had misappropriated some of the government funds and they were charged with misappropriation of public funds (Pen. Code, § 424, subd. (a)(1)) and identity theft (Pen. Code, § 530.5, subd. (a)), among other charges in a 149-count indictment. Upon motion, the trial court dismissed the misappropriation of funds counts, finding defendants were not public officers and T-Town was not a public agency. It also dismissed the identity theft counts for insufficient evidence. The prosecution appealed. Held: Reversed. It is unnecessary for a violation of section 424 that a person be acting in an official capacity. Section 424 is not limited to public officers but applies to “every other person” who has some control over public funds. The money received by T-Town remained public funds even after transfer to the nonprofit group home because the government maintained an interest in and regulatory control over the money, which is designated for a specific purpose—the care of foster children.

The offense of identity theft does not require proof that the victim of the offense suffered any loss or damages. Defendants argued that the identify theft counts should be dismissed because the victims of the offenses suffered no losses, harm, or invasion of privacy. The trial court erred in dismissing these counts because identity theft is committed when the defendant uses the identifying information for an unlawful purpose. The intent of section 530.5, subdivision (a) “is to criminalize the willful use of another’s personal identifying information, regardless of whether the user intends to defraud and regardless of whether any actual harm or loss is caused.”