Finding that a defendant obtained a future interest in bail money as well as his release from prison – which constitute property under Indiana law – the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Elnesto Ray Valle’s Class C felony inmate fraud conviction. Valle convinced a stranger to pay his bail.
Valle was in jail in Grant County on a drug charge and shared a cell with his friend Edward Jay Brummett. Valle contacted his cousin and asked her to pretend to be related to Brummett in order to get money from Brummett’s inmate commissary account to be used to bail Valle out of jail. Valle forged forms, but the plot failed. Valle then tried reaching a friend, but dialed the wrong number and struck up a conversation with Peter Barrett. Valle eventually convinced Barrett, a complete stranger, to pay Valle’s bail with his credit card. He said he could pay Barrett back after being released.
The bail money was posted with the clerk of the court, and Barrett never received money back directly from Valle. He was also charged a $75 service fee for using his credit card.
Valle was charged with and convicted of various counts as a result of his schemes. He only challenged on appeal his inmate fraud conviction and aggregate 16-year sentence. Valle argued the state didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support the conviction under I.C. 35-43-5-20 because he did not obtain money or property from his misrepresentations.
In Elnesto Ray Valle v. State of Indiana, 27A02-1209-CR-772, the judges found Valle’s future interest in the bail money constitutes property for the purposes of inmate fraud. When he posted bail, Barrett agreed to a provision that said the funds will become the property of the defendant and returned to Valle.
“That the bail money, less the $75 service fee, was ultimately ordered returned to Peter is of no matter. Had Valle’s plan not been thwarted, he would have been entitled to the bail money if returned by the court,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.
The appeals court also agreed with the state that Valle obtained property in the form of his release from jail. It also upheld his sentence, pointing to his lengthy criminal history – both as a juvenile and as an adult. Valle also took advantage of Barrett, whom the court found was “mentally incapacitated.”