§ 943.38, Forgery – Endorsement with Fictitious Name as Commercially Acceptable Practice

State v. Scot A. Czarnecki, 2000 WI App 155, 237 Wis.2d 794, 615 N.W.2d 672

For Czarnecki: Patrick M. Donnelly, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether use of an assumed name in endorsing a check may subject the endorser to forgery charge.

Holding:

¶7 In further support of his challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, Czarnecki argues that even if he endorsed the checks with the surname “Dougan,” there was nothing false or unlawful about these endorsements. Because the check writers knew Czarnecki as Scot Dougan of Dougan Bros., he claims that the check writers’ intent for him to cash the checks was fulfilled; therefore, his endorsements were not false. Because the check writers’ intent is immaterial to this crime, we dismiss that portion of Czarnecki’s contention. The crimes concern Czarnecki’s actions and intent, not the victims’.

¶8 Inherent in Czarnecki’s argument is the claim that the check writers must have relied on his endorsements of the checks to their detriment. This argument was rejected in State v. Davis, 105 Wis. 2d 690, 314 N.W.2d 907 (Ct. App. 1981). ..

¶9 The final aspect of Czarnecki’s claim is that it was not a false act for him to sign “Scot Dougan” to endorse the checks because he was using his assumed name and not purporting to be someone else. Forgery is committed when one lies about the genuineness of a document. See id. at 694. The essence of the forgery crime is an intent to defraud. See State v. Fick, 464 P.2d 271, 274 (Kan. 1970). Using a fictitious or assumed name when signing or endorsing a check is not always a forgery. When an assumed name is used for a fraudulent purpose, the act can be a forgery. See State v. Lampe, 26 Wis. 2d 646, 650, 133 N.W.2d 349 (1965). To resolve Czarnecki’s argument, we must consider two questions. One, were the check endorsements with a fictitious name permissible? And two, were the check endorsements false acts?

The court resolves the inquiries adversely to Czarnecki (“the fact that the assumed name was used with an intent to defraud overrode any acceptable uses for aliases”; ” the purpose the assumed name served was to avoid responsibility for his illegal acts by hindering and delaying his identification once the scam was revealed”).