-2

Suppose I obtain the ability to access someone else's cryptocurrency. For the sake of the question let's assume the means by which this ability was obtained wasn't itself illegal, e.g. I overheard them saying the password to their wallet out loud or I am a custodian of their assets.

I now borrow those assets, keep them for some period of time, and then return them, without the owner's consent. During this time some utility could be obtained from them, e.g. they could be rented out at a fee to facilitate a short sale.

This kind of behaviour obviously fails the pub test, but has a crime been commited?

7
  • 2
    @amon I don't think it's theft, because there is no intention to permanently deprive the owner. I'm not sure whether it's fraud either, there is not necessarily any loss to the owner. It's obviously unethical, but I'm interested in whether it's illegal.
    – quant
    Jul 25 at 11:29
  • 2
    I think entering a vehicle without consent is very different.
    – quant
    Jul 25 at 11:42
  • 1
    Compare Is borrowing without consent illegal? (Although there is the possibility of specific laws around cryptocurrency or other financial instruments.)
    – Stuart F
    Jul 25 at 12:14
  • 1
    What is the pub test?
    – Joseph P.
    Jul 25 at 15:01
  • 1
    @JosephP. it's where you consider what would happen if you went to the pub and asked random patrons whether they think it's ok or not.
    – quant
    Jul 25 at 20:45

2 Answers 2

4

Suppose I obtain the ability to access someone else's cryptocurrency.

This sounds like fraud

e.g. I overheard them saying the password to their wallet out loud or I am a custodian of their assets.

Nope, STILL fraud, possibly even Computer Misuse aka hacking... and because you use internet: it's Wire Fraud

I now borrow those assets, keep them for some period of time, and then return them, without the owner's consent.

hmmm, let's take ... Luckjy you, it is not embezzlement because you were not entrusted with the cryptocurrency, you gave yourself access.

503. Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been intrusted.

No it is plainly... theft under California law:

484. (a) Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft. In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern. For the purposes of this section, any false or fraudulent representation or pretense made shall be treated as continuing, so as to cover any money, property or service received as a result thereof, and the complaint, information or indictment may charge that the crime was committed on any date during the particular period in question. The hiring of any additional employee or employees without advising each of them of every labor claim due and unpaid and every judgment that the employer has been unable to meet shall be prima facie evidence of intent to defraud.

Giving it back doesn't matter. The person taking the crypto for any amount of time without being entitled to them is committing theft. You see, California doesn't interest that you just want to borrow. They don't even require Mens Rea for the mere taking - only for fraudulent pretense there is an intent question. In fact, it might even be automatically Grand Theft:

484d. As used in this section and Sections 484e to 484j, inclusive:[...] (2) “Access card” means any card, plate, code, account number, or other means of account access that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access card, to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds, other than a transfer originated solely by a paper instrument.

484e. (a) Every person who, with intent to defraud, sells, transfers, or conveys, an access card, without the cardholder’s or issuer’s consent, is guilty of grand theft.

YIKES! and now, intent to defraud comes in, but that is actually minimal: that just means taking without being allowed to by the owner in many cases.

1
  • 1
    Got it. Back to the drawing board for my career options.
    – quant
    Jul 26 at 1:35
3

"Borrowing" without consent is theft.

6
  • Not according tyo the legal definition of theft in most jurisdictions. Jul 25 at 13:35
  • @DavidSiegel actually... it is.
    – Trish
    Jul 25 at 15:04
  • This answer doesn't seem very convincing.
    – quant
    Jul 25 at 20:48
  • 2
    Some jurisdictions require intent to permanently deprive for theft, but it is almost always some sort of crime.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 25 at 20:54
  • 1
    @DavidSiegel in the US state of Georgia, permanent vs. temporary doesn't matter.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 26 at 1:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.