Wednesday, March 01, 2023

People v. Ung (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 28, 2023)

Justice Greenwood is a lot nicer than I would have been in this opinion.

Kalvin Ung stole a ton of cryptocurrency from various people back in 2018 -- roughly $1.6 million worth of the stuff. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In late 2021, the court ordered Mr. Ung to give restitution to the people he stole from; namely, that he give 'em back the crypto he stole. Mr. Ung (and his lawyers) contended both below and on appeal that such an order was improper. According to Mr. Ung, the value of the crypto back when it was stolen was only $1.6 million, so even though it's worth almost $16 million now (!), he can only be ordered to return the original valuation of $1.6 million. Apparently Mr. Ung thinks he gets to keep the remaining $14 million he stole.

There's a word for that; chutzpah.

The argument doesn't work. Below as well as on appeal. When you steal an item with a fluctuating value, you can be ordered to give the stolen property back as restitution. The restitution order doesn't need to be a set dollar figure. It can simply be -- as here -- the thing you stole.

Which not only is the law, but totally, 100% makes sense. You don't get a $14 million bonus just because the stuff you stole is worth a lot more now than when you originally stole it.

Mr. Ung's argument to the contrary borders on the frivolous. It's not frivolous, mind you; not legally, anyway. It's just clearly, unambiguously, and indisputably totally one thousand percent wrong.

Not even an argument, in my mind, worth making.