This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
William Albert Schroeder, Jr.,
Filed February 1, 2000
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Meeker County District Court
File No. K798247
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Natalie E. Hudson, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103 and
Michael J. Thompson, Meeker County Attorney, 325 Sibley Avenue North, Litchfield, MN 55355 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lyonel F. Norris, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.[*]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
After a jury trial, appellant William Schroeder, Jr., challenges his convictions for check forgery and offering forged checks, claiming evidence was insufficient because appellant, in making blank money orders payable to himself in his own name and negotiating them by signing his true name did not "falsely make" a check as required by Minn. Stat. § 609.631, subd. 2(1) (1998). Because Schroeder (1) [with intent to defraud], falsely made the money orders so that they purported to have been made by another; and (2) does not argue that there was insufficient evidence to find that he offered the money orders, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
A challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence requires this court to determine whether, in light of the facts in the record and the inferences that can be drawn from those facts, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988). "If the jury, giving due regard to the presumption of innocence and to the state’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably have found the defendant guilty, the verdict will not be disturbed." State v. Pierson, 530 N.W.2d 784, 787 (Minn. 1995) (citation omitted). In addition, this court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the state’s case and must assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any contrary evidence. State v. Drieman, 457 N.W.2d 703, 711 (Minn. 1990). Issues of credibility and weight of the evidence are for the jury to decide. Bias, 419 N.W.2d at 484.
Check forgery is committed under Minn. Stat. § 609.631, subd. 2(1) (1998) when a person "with the intent to defraud, * * * falsely makes or alters a check so that it purports to have been made by another." Although Schroeder concedes that the money orders at issue were "checks" within the meaning of the check forgery statute, he contends that making blank money orders payable to himself and negotiating them by signing his true name does not constitute forgery. Therefore, Schroeder argues that there is insufficient evidence, as a matter of law, to support the jury’s verdict of guilt on two counts of check forgery and offering a forged check.
The first element of check forgery is intent to defraud. Schroeder cashed the money orders, lied about how he had obtained them, and refused to return the money despite being confronted by the owner of the orders. Moreover, despite Schroeder’s confession and attempt to return a portion of the money when questioned by the police the next day, he had already committed the crime with the requisite intent to defraud. It was well within the province of the fact finder to infer from Schroeder’s statements and conduct that he intended to defraud. Because this court must construe the evidence in favor of the verdict and assume the fact finder believed the evidence supporting the verdict and disbelieved all contrary evidence, there is sufficient evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that Schroeder intended to defraud the owner when he completed the money orders.
The second element, whether Schroeder falsely made the money orders, is the crux of Schroeder’s sufficiency of the evidence challenge. Although Schroeder told police he filled out the money orders, his girlfriend testified that only her handwriting appeared on the money orders and that she had made them out. However, she also testified that Schroeder instructed her on how to complete each money order. It is exclusively within the province of the trier of fact to weigh the credibility of witnesses and consider their testimony accordingly. State v. Miles, 585 N.W.2d 368, 373 (Minn. 1998). Therefore, the jury was entitled to disbelieve the testimony of Schroeder’s girlfriend and believe that Schroeder had filled out the money orders.
Although there is no direct evidence that Schroeder falsely made the money orders because no exhibits or documents were introduced at trial, his conviction may be sustained by circumstantial evidence. The Minnesota Supreme Court has explained that:
[A] conviction based on circumstantial evidence will be upheld and such evidence is entitled to as much weight as any other kind of evidence, so long as a detailed review of the record indicates that the reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with the defendant’s guilt * * *.
State v. Ostrem, 535 N.W.2d 916, 923 (Minn. 1995) (citations omitted). In this case, the post office clerk testified that she was working when Schroeder cashed the two money orders and that she knew the money orders were the same ones she had sold earlier that morning. The clerk testified that she only sold money orders to two people that day, that she sold a woman one money order for $250 and another for $50, and that all the money orders she sold had the same serial number. By virtue of the serial number, date, and amount of each money order, the clerk knew the money orders cashed by Schroeder were the same orders she had sold earlier that day.
The trial court record reflects that the post office clerk identified Schroeder as the man who cashed the forged money orders. Because circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence and all rational inferences from the post office clerk’s testimony suggest that Schroeder falsely made the money orders, Schroeder’s attempts to distinguish money orders from other negotiable instruments and all other arguments regarding the sufficiency of the evidence are without merit.
The final element of check forgery requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Schroeder made the money orders purport to have been made by another. As previously discussed, Schroeder made the money orders. Because the evidence shows that one money order was made payable from Jessica Husted and the other from Joanne Bolco, it is clear that Schroeder made the money orders appear as if they had been made by another. Therefore, there is sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s conclusion that Schroeder falsely made the money orders purport to have been made by others and the final element of check forgery is also satisfied.
Offering a forged check occurs under Minn. Stat. 609.631, subd. 3 when a person "with intent to defraud, offers * * * a forged check * * *." As previously discussed with regard to the check forgery conviction, the elements of intent to defraud and the existence of forged checks have been satisfied. Because Schroeder does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the jury’s finding that he offered the money orders, this court need not address this issue and his conviction for offering forged checks is affirmed.
Affirmed.[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.