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The People v. Monique Shiontel Bell

July 20, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
MONIQUE SHIONTEL BELL, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Mark C. Kim, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. NA080795)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mallano, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

Monique Bell used another person's name and personal identifying information to convince a lessor of an apartment that Bell was creditworthy. She leased the apartment and soon was delinquent in paying rent until she was evicted. A jury convicted Bell of identity theft and related charges, including grand theft. Bell challenges the grand theft conviction, claiming that it is not supported by substantial evidence that she had the intent to permanently deprive the lessor of its property. We disagree and affirm because Bell intended to permanently deprive the lessor of a leasehold interest, at least to the extent that Bell failed to pay rent during her occupancy.

BACKGROUND

The information charged Bell with one count of identity theft in violation of subdivision (a) of Penal Code section 530.5 (count 1), one count of false personation in violation of section 529 (count 2), one count of making a false financial statement in violation of subdivision (1) of section 532a (count 3), and grand theft of personal property in violation of subdivision (a) of section 487 (count 4).*fn1

The charges were tried to a jury, which found Bell guilty on all counts. The court sentenced Bell to 2 years 8 months in state prison. Bell appealed.

The evidence introduced at trial showed that Bell signed a one-year apartment lease in April 2007 under the name of Leah Taylor, using Taylor's social security number and other personal identifying information in order to obtain approval of Bell's rental application. Bell then resided in the apartment with another woman and a little girl. The director of operations of Healstone Property Management, which managed the apartment complex, described the rental history as follows: "There were collection issues, there were partial payments, late payments, and then the final was the returned check." "In June the late payments started." ". . . [H]aving the delinquent payments right off the bat was a red flag . . . ." After June, the problems persisted with "[l]ate payments July, August, partial payments through August, September, October. At which point in November there was a returned check along with a delinquency in which we had sent first the notice requesting that they surrender the property, pay the rent in full. And upon no response to that, we filed [an] unlawful detainer."

Pursuant to an unlawful detainer judgment, Healstone garnished $3,000 from the bank account of the real Leah Taylor for the unpaid rent. When Taylor sought to get her money back, claiming truthfully that she had never lived in or even applied to rent the apartment in question, the identity theft finally came to light. Taylor did get her $3,000 back but, as of the time of trial, was still trying to restore her credit rating to its previous status.

We appointed counsel to represent Bell on appeal. After examination of the record, counsel filed an opening brief raising no issues and asking us independently to review the record pursuant to People v. Wende (1979) 25 Cal.3d 436. On October 25, 2010, we advised Bell that she had 30 days within which she could personally submit any contentions or issues that she wished us to consider. We received no response.

After reviewing the record, we sent a letter to the parties requesting supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the conviction for grand theft is supported by substantial evidence. In response to our letter, the issue was briefed.

DISCUSSION

Bell challenges the grand theft conviction on the basis that it is not supported by substantial evidence that she had the intent to permanently deprive the lessor of its property. We disagree and affirm because Bell intended to permanently deprive the lessor of a leasehold interest, at least to the extent that Bell failed to pay rent during her occupancy.

As to the grand theft count, the information alleged that Bell "did unlawfully take money and personal property of a value exceeding Four Hundred Dollars ($400), to wit rent money and U.S. currency $3045.41 the property of Leah Tomel Taylor, Healstone Property Management." ...


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