A suspect was recently arrested by the LAPD for allegedly scamming members of the deaf community out of nearly $500,000. Hussein Ibrahim Dheini, deaf himself, is alleged to have gained the trust of several other people through his use of American Sign Language. He then exploited that trust to scam his victims into lending him money for a variety of business ventures; the money was never repaid.

According to the victims, Dheini not only failed to repay the initial loans, but continued to pressure them for additional money. In pressuring them, Dheini is alleged to have used duress to coax more money out of his victims, which resulted in feelings of fear. Because Dheini put his victims in a state of duress and fear, he was charged with robbery after his arrest, as opposed to charges of fraud or theft by deception – charges that would otherwise be more in-line with what scammers do.

To understand why Dheini was charged with robbery, we must first understand its legal definition. Robbery is covered under California Penal Code 211 PC and is stated as taking personal property from someone else’s person or immediate presence, against someone’s will, through the use of force or fear.

Theft by false pretenses (deception), on the other hand, is covered under California Penal Code 532 PC and is described as, basically, convincing someone to give you their property by telling them something that isn’t true or by making a promise not intended to be kept.

Initially, when Dheini was allegedly perpetrating his scam, he was violating 532 PC by convincing his victims to loan him money which he never intended to repay. However, once his methods extended to such a degree that his victims were put into a state of fear and distress, Dheini’s alleged crime became robbery.

Robbery charges carry the possible penalties of formal probation, 3 to 6-years in state prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Interestingly, robbery counts are not charged based on how many items one steals, but by how many people are put into a state of fear as a result of the robbery. For example, let’s say two people are walking down the street, and someone pops out of the bushes, pulls a knife and demands the diamond ring off one of his victim’s fingers. Only one ring is stolen from one person, but both individuals were put into a state of fear during the crime. Thus, it’s possible that the suspect would face two counts of robbery when he is caught.