Recently your Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney was asked the following:

A girl who fails to appear for a grand theft hearing is still in trouble six years later despite the statute of limitations in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Van Gogh, Girl in White, 1890

My sister was arraigned on a Grand Theft charge in Florida six years ago. My family has reason to believe she may be innocent of the charge. After she attended the arraignment hearing things went from bad to worse in her life, she turned to a life on the streets and she failed to appear for any further court hearings on the Grand Theft. 

She finally contacted the family after all these years. That’s when we checked the computer and found that there were warrants for her arrest for Grand Theft as well as a Failure to Appear charge. We talked her into turning herself in, but now as she’s sitting in jail we’re wondering what will happen to her. Could the Grand Theft charge be dismissed because it violates the statute of limitations, after all it’s been over six years since the charge was filed against her? 

In criminal law the statute of limitations in Florida if five years for a Grand Theft filed as a third degree felony. That means that the state of Florida has five years to file a criminal action against someone who allegedly has committed a crime. The idea is that failure by the State to give timely notice of a crime diminishes one’s ability to effectively mount a fair defense. But here the State of Florida timely filed the charge, then your sister absconded making things worse by failing to appear for the Grand Theft. So a warrant was issued for the underlying Grand Theft, then for the second felony, the Failure to Appear.

Typically, the State of Florida must show that it made a good faith effort to find a Defendant once an arrest warrant is issued. Failing to show an effort was made to find her could result in dismissal. However, if your sister was living on the streets without a permanent address or living at an address that was different from the one given as her dwelling during the course of the Grand Theft charge a Judge would likely find that law enforcement didn’t find her because she didn’t want to be found. 
Still it’d be interesting to see if she had any police contact while living on the streets. If officers made contact with her for an infraction such as jaywalking and failed to arrest her on the outstanding arrest warrant, a Judge could find that law enforcement failed to meet its good faith burden of attempting to find her
Ultimately even if your sister didn’t commit the underlying Grand Theft she made a terrible mistake in not appearing for court hearings thus giving the State of Florida the sword of a new felony, the Failure to Appear.
It’s especially heartening for a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer to hear that your family has reached out to help your sister during this holiday season. Yet as important as the resolution of her case is, letting her know that the family will be there to support her while she gets back on her feet will give her the strength to get thru this.


Years ago while your Clearwater Criminal Lawyer was a young sometimes productive Prosecuting Attorney in Florida one of the other lawyers bought a beautiful 911 Porsche, red as I remember. He boasted to someone at the office that the Porsche was more recent than it really was. 

Within a day xeroxed evidence materialized showing the Porsche was much older than he claimed. The information gracing every wall was from confidential law enforcement tag sources meant only for law enforcement purposes. For kicks someone added his NCIC criminal history which unhappily showed little of interest as well as his Florida Department of Motor Vehicles information establishing a litany of speeding tickets.

Former Prosecutor’s Porsche 911
For fun in those long begone days we prosecutors often had mock prosecutions of each other when not faced with real trials taking turns in various roles. I was often chosen as Counsel for the Defense, but not for him. The evidence on the walls was deemed trustworthy. At trial in one of our offices, doors locked to prying supervisors, we convicted him of being not only a liar, but of something somehow worse and unspoken, of being less than a gentleman. To this day when I see him defending in Court, I cringe in disgust.
Yet after all these years could it be that my judgment was misplaced? Clearly, one of the lawyers in that State Attorney’s Office took it upon himself to commit a felony just to put the Porsche Man down. 
My thoughts turned to that long ago incident after seeing today’s press reports concerning a Clearwater Police Department Officer who appears to have gained confidential car tag information for a friend going thru a divorce. If the information was delivered without being part of a law enforcement investigation, then there’s no excuse for the failure to respect another citizen’s privacy rights.
Yet, I can’t help but think that it’s some of my former colleagues, those same Prosecutors who may have taken that Porsche tag information so long ago, who are weighing whether to charge the Clearwater officer with a felony. I wonder if they remember. If so, they don’t need a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney to tell them that the statute of limitations has passed and at least they’re safe from prosecution.


Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Forger is a new memoir from Florida’s master art forger, Ken Perenyl. In the memoir the author almost admits to a series of crimes which could constitute a criminal conspiracy of grand theft and scheming to defraud. The painter believes that he is immune from prosecution because of the statute of limitations; it’s hoped he vetted all of his admissions before publication not with a priest but with a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

KEN PERENYI the artist and forger in Tampa Bay Florida hopes the statute of limitations has passed for scheme to defraud
The Artist working in Madeira Beach, Florida

But is the master forger really free from the threat of prosecution? A defense argument can be made that the forgeries are not forgeries at all in that he copied the style, formula and subject matter for secondary artists rather than copy known paintings and let others jump to conclusions and that any evidence of wrongdoing is circumstantial. 
But what about the money? Press accounts of the memoir indicate that the expert art forger made a significant amount of money from the crimes. How he accounted for the money could directly affect how the statute of limitations would apply in his case. Further, it appears that he is still painting fakes, but listing them as fakes in a wonderfully worded convoluted waiver in his sales slips, which might not be sufficient to stop fraud allegations if the prices he sells the paintings are enhanced because of high resale value as genuine paintings especially if a reasonable person would believe that the paintings would later be sold as genuine. But even if he were prosecuted and punished would jail really be appropriate for his crimes.
Here are some excerpts from the Gaurdian Newspaper’s account. 

An extraordinary memoir reveals how a gifted artist managed to forge his way to riches by conning high-profile auctioneers, dealers and collectors over four decades tells the story of Ken Perenyi, an American who lived in London for 30 years. The revelations within it are likely to spark embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic as “a bombshell for the major international auction houses and galleries.”
Perenyi’s specialities included British sporting and marine paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries. He concentrated on the work of well-known but second-rank artists, believing that the output of the greatest masters is too fully documented. Dealers were often told he had found a picture in a relative’s attic or spotted it in a car boot sale.
Perhaps Perenyi’s proudest moment came when a forgery of Ruby Throats with Apple Blossoms, by the American 19th-century artist Martin Johnson Heade, made the front page of a national newspaper and was heralded as a major “discovery”selling for nearly $100,000 at auction in New York.
Perenyi believes he is free finally to publish his story because, although he was investigated by the FBI, the case was closed in 2003 and is subject to the statute of limitations. He said he has never discovered why the case was dropped, but he suspects the art world may have been keen to prevent the exposure of the serial forgeries. 

His love of painting and the old masters remains undimmed and today he owns a studio in Madeira Beach, Florida. Asked if he regrets not finding recognition as an artist in his own right, he said: “I’ve often pondered that myself. But to have equalled the hand of such artists as Herring and Buttersworth and many others is for me a tremendous satisfaction.”

If you’ve been forging great works of art while the FBI is looking over your shoulder, call  Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers who will paint a picture of your innocent nature for the Judge and Jury.