On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 04-06-00096.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Axelrad, Parrillo and Lihotz.
Following a jury trial, defendant Rene Bradley-Williams was convicted of third-degree theft of services, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8(a) and N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 (count one); seven counts of third-degree uttering a forged instrument, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1(a)(3) and N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 (counts two, four, five, seven, nine, twelve, and thirteen); and four counts of second-degree theft by deception, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4 and N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 (counts three, six, eight, and eleven).*fn1
Defendant presents the following issues for review on appeal:
THE ABSENCE OF A LIMITING INSTRUCTION CONCERNING THE GUILTY PLEA ENTERED BY AN ALLEGED ACCOMPLICE DEPRIVED DEFENDANT OF THE RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW AND A FAIR TRIAL. U.S. CONST. AMEND XIV; N.J. CONST. (1947) ART. I, PARS. 1, 9, 10. (Not Raised Below).
DEFENDANT'S CONVICTIONS FOR FORGERY MUST BE MERGED INTO THE CONVICTIONS FOR THE RELATED THEFT OFFENSES.
We affirm defendant's conviction. However, remand is required to adequately resolve the relevant merger of certain convictions, necessitating resentencing.
Due to the pointed focus of defendant's argument in Point I, we provide a general recitation of the facts supporting defendant's criminal convictions taken from the trial testimony. Defendant offered co-defendant Donald Fisher $50,000 to create a template on her computer to print checks. Fisher described how defendant gave him the account number, check number, payee, issuer, and name of the drawee bank, which he used to create the computer template and print the checks. Generally, the checks purported to be drawn on the account of a New York law firm, which allegedly issued the checks to defendant as settlement of her claims.
Once Fisher created the checks, between September 24, 2002 and October 22, 2002, defendant, Bradley and Fisher used the counterfeit checks to purchase five new automobiles from several area dealerships, including a Mercedes Benz CLK 500, a Mercedes Benz SL 55 convertible, a Jaguar S-Type R, and two Lincoln Navigators. In each instance, defendant was the purchaser and executed all necessary documentation, while Fisher handed the dealer the checks for payment and placed a telephone call to confirm sufficient funds were in the purported account on which the checks were drawn. The checks used to purchase the two Mercedes were drawn on the account of the New York law firm Napoli, Kaiser and Bern, LLP, and the memo line of the check referenced a "Fen-Phen settlement."*fn2 The other three vehicles were purchased using checks drawn on the account of the New York law firm Wilson, Hannah, & Martin, and the memo line of the check stated, "Estate Settlement."
Defendant also issued counterfeit checks to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Department of Veterans Affairs Credit Union (DVACU) to satisfy her obligations for a car rental and a car loan. On October 25, 2002, defendant contracted with the owner of Car Toyz to obtain modifications to the Jaguar, Mercedes and Lincolns. While the work was being completed, the owner ...