Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Chicago Theft Lawyers

Theft takes many shapes and it is one of the most frequently occurring crimes in the state of Illinois. It takes place when a person takes the possession or property of another person without their consent.

Many people think that theft is not a serious crime because it does not involve direct confrontation with the victim or violence. In some cases it isn’t even possible to identify the victim. However, the crime is considered quite serious and there are harsh penalties in law for theft, including jail time and fines.

There are two main types of theft depending on the value of the property stolen; petty theft and felony theft. While the latter is more serious, both crimes carry punishments and a conviction can result in a prison sentence.

State Legislation

Theft is covered under 720 ILCS 5/16. The law states that a person commits theft when he or she knowingly;

  • Exerts or takes unauthorized control over the property of another person.
  • Obtains control over the property of another person by deception.
  • Obtains control over the property of another person through threats.
  • Takes control of stolen property with the knowledge that the property has been stolen or under circumstances that would reasonably lead him or her to believe that the property has been stolen.
  • Takes control over property which any law officer, or an individual acting on behalf of the law enforcement agencies, explicitly represents to the person as being stolen or presents to the person in a way that would lead the person to believe that the property was stolen.

A theft of property valued for less than $500 which is not committed directly against the victim is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. If the offense takes place in a school, a place of worship or a governmental property, it can be charged as a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 – 3 years in prison.

If a theft is committed directly against the victim or if the value of theft is between $500 and $10,000, it is charged as a Class 3 felony punishable by 2 – 5 years in prison. If the offense takes place in a school, a place of worship or a governmental property, it can be charged as a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 – 7 years in prison.

Theft of property between $10,000 and $100,000 is a Class 2 felony. If it takes place in a school, place of worship or the theft is of governmental property it is charged as a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 – 15 years in prison.

Theft of property between $100,000 and $500,000 is a Class 1 felony. If the offence occurs in a school, place of worship or committed against government property, it is charged as a Class X felony, punishable by 6 – 30 years in prison.

If a theft is committed through deception against a person of over 60 years of age, the charge can be tried as a Class 2 felony.

The law further states that theft by deception where a person obtains rental payment from a tenant, posing as the landlord, employee or agent of the landlord can be charged as a Class 1, 2 or 3 felony depending on the value of the money in question.


One special category of theft is theft by deception. Unlike regular theft where the victim and the perpetrator do not meet, theft by deception takes place when the accused pretends to be authorized to take something of value from the victim.

Theft b y deception involves lying, misrepresenting facts, tricking someone into thinking they are getting one thing in exchange for another or fraudulently causing another person to sign a contract through deception.

Under theft through deception, the law does not recognize the defense that the victim willingly gave away their possession or property to the offender.

Usually, defendants charged with theft through deception are also charged with fraud & forgery etc.

Examples and Court Cases

A woman from O’Fallon was recently sentenced for stealing money from an elderly woman by taking control of her check book.

Jessica Hart 32, from O’Fallon had previous convictions for theft, drug possession and prostitution. She had been sentenced to intensive probation in 2012 for theft and was convicted for prostitution in 2016.

The prosecution had accused that Hart had stolen the checkbook of Rhoda Rowe 88, the grandmother of the man she was dating and living with recently. She used the checkbook to withdraw money from the elderly woman’s account without her authorization.

Hart pleaded guilty to the charges of theft and financial exploitation of an elderly person. She has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

In another recent ruling, a man was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from elderly and sick clients.

Lino Menconi 52, of Schaumburg was accused of misleading clients of his legal firm so that he could use their money for personal benefits. He was convicted on two counts of theft.

Court documents showed that Menconi had the power of attorney over a relative’s annuity policy that was worth more than $700,000.He directed the victim’s annuity checks to be sent to his office.

Menconi also represented an 86 year old client who was trying to recover money invested in an IRA. When the checks were received, Menconi deposited the money into his own bank account.

A charge of theft can be brought forth against a person not just for taking something of value, but for withholding rightful payment as well.

Two employees of a retailer brought charges of theft and fraud against their employer for withholding pay. The state office claimed that the employer was misleading the employees about their salary and engaged in business malpractice.

The retailer hired a defense team and negotiated with the prosecution during the pretrial phase. Two former employees were brought forward by the prosecution as additional witnesses.

After the case started, the defense team brought forward strong evidence from their own investigation about the payments made to the employees. One of the witnesses failed to appear in court, while cross examination showed that the other payments due to the other employees had been cleared by the business. Only one employee had a legitimate outstanding balance.

The case was dismissed as the retailer settled the matter with the remaining employee, outside the court.

Possible Legal Defenses

In order to be convicted for theft, the prosecution must show that the defendant took property from another person with full knowledge that it was stolen and had the intention to deprive the victim permanently.

In some cases, a defendant can show that they did not take the property permanently and intended to return it to the owner.

The defendant may also argue that he or she found the property without an owner and made a reasonable effort to locate the owner before taking control.

Another defense is to argue that the owner willingly gave the control to the defendant without deception or coercion involved.

The best strategy for defense depends on the case circumstances and a capable team can guide the defendant after going over the case specifics.