No Recovery For Stolen Property

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The State Supreme Court has ruled that victims of thieves who use deception to steal property are not entitled to get the property back from a future owner, even if they can prove ownership.

In a 5-to-2 ruling Tuesday, justices drew a distinction between two types of theft, saying an owner may be entitled to recover property from a future owner if it was stolen in a burglary or violent crime. But they said under the law, owners of property lost through deception such as a bad check may not be able to retrieve it.

The ruling came in the case of Ken West, whose accepted a $7,400 cashier's check for his Corvette in November 2001. A week later, he was informed the check was fake but by then, the car and buyer had disappeared.

More than two years later, West asked police to check for the car's identification number, and learned that Tammy Roberts had bought the car from her brother. Her brother had bought the car through a newspaper ad.

West sued Roberts in Jefferson County District Court for the car.

The court majority agreed with the trial judge that good-faith buyers like Roberts, who could not have known the car had been stolen, should retain ownership.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)