ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
William P. Greenaway Steve Carter
Noblesville, Indiana Attorney General
Grant H. Carlton
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
GREGORY LEONARD WRIGHT, )
v. ) 29S02-0301-CR-33
STATE OF INDIANA, )
APPEAL FROM THE HAMILTON SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable William J. Hughes, Judge
Cause No. 29D03-9906-DF-128
On Petition To Transfer
January 24, 2003
On April 11, 1999, Gregory Wright entered a Wal-Mart store in Carmel, Indiana,
gathered merchandise from throughout the store and presented those goods, along with another
shopping cart full of items he brought in from his car (and for
which he had no receipt) to the store return desk. Wal-Mart loss
prevention officers observed his actions and advised the manager to approve a refund
if Wright requested one. Wright did seek and receive a full refund
of $880.57. As Wright left the store with the refund, loss prevention officers
arrested him. He was thereafter convicted of theft, but the Court of
Appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court, finding the evidence insufficient to
establish theft but sufficient to support a conviction for the lesser-included offense of
Wright v. State, 754 N.E.2d 550, 554 (Ind. Ct. App.
2001). We grant the State's petition for transfer and affirm the trial
In his appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, claiming that
the prosecution failed to prove that the refund he obtained was "unauthorized" as
required by the definition of theft. Ind. Code § 35-43-4-2(a). The
crime of theft is defined as "knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over
property of another person, with intent to deprive the other person of any
part of its value or use[.]" I. C. § 35-43-4-2(a). Dispositive
to this case is whether Wright's control over the $880.57 was "unauthorized" within
the meaning of the statute. Indiana Code § 35-43-4-1(b) defines "unauthorized control,"
in relevant part,
as control exerted 1) without the other's consent, or 2)
by creating a false impression in the other person. The defendant argues,
and the Court of Appeals agreed, that the defendant neither took the refund
money without Wal-Mart's consent nor created a false impression.
As to the first contention, the defendant reasons that when the store manager
authorized the refund at the instruction of loss prevention personnel, Wal-Mart consented to
the defendant's control over the money. We disagree. Wal-Mart loss prevention
personnel observed Wright's actions from the time he initially entered the store until
he left with the refund money, and in fact witnessed him take from
the store shelves many of the items he presented for a refund.
Record at 305-10. By instructing a manager to approve a refund should
the defendant request one, Wal-Mart was not authorizing the defendant to exert control
over the refunded money, but was rather permitting the scope of the defendant's
plans to be tested, intending all the while to reassert rightful control of
the money once the criminal act was complete. This is evidenced by
the fact that loss prevention personnel apprehended the defendant once he exited the
store in possession of the money. Record at 309.
The defendant next argues that he did not exert unauthorized control over the
refunded money because he did not create a false impression in Wal-Mart.
He reasons that, although he
tried to deceive Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart knew the truth
all along, and was therefore never operating under the false impression that the
defendant was lawfully entitled to the refund. We agree. Wright did
not create a false impression in Wal-Mart.
However, a person may exert unauthorized control over the property of another
by creating a false impression or by exerting control without the other's consent.
I. C. § 35-43-4-1(b). The evidence is sufficient to show
that the defendant knowingly or intentionally exerted unauthorized control over the property of
Wal-Mart by taking the refund money without Wal-Mart's consent, thus satisfying the statutory
requirements for theft under Indiana Code § 35-43-4-2(a).
The defendant's conviction is affirmed.
SHEPARD, C.J., and SULLIVAN, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
Indiana Code § 35-43-4-1 lists additional forms of unauthorized control, none of
which are at issue in this case.