51-year-old man (name withheld for privacy) is no stranger to the San Francisco police department, having already been convicted once of possession of stolen credit cards 3 years ago. However, this time, he has been accused of 3 felony counts of identify theft (CA Penal Code 530.5), 1 misdemeanor count of falsely identifying himself to police (CA Penal Code 529), and 3 felony counts of defrauding an innkeeper (CA Penal Code 537).
He pretended to be some sort of business tycoon, offering various stories of woe to the expensive hotels for which he sought to gain entrance during the period of November 2 through November 11, 2013. Without identification of any kind, he managed to convince the hotel staff in the Embarcadero (Hyatt Regency), in Union Square (Hotel Nikko), and in the Financial District (Omni) that he had either just been mugged or had a sick wife. He allegedly conned these three businesses out of somewhere in the range of $2,000 – $10,000.
Although many people are aware of California laws concerning identify theft and false impersonation, few are familiar with defrauding an innkeeper (CA Penal Code 537) . This is a little-known law that states that it is illegal to obtain accommodations at any hotel, boarding house, lodging house, apartment, motel, marina, or campground under false pretenses and with the intention of swindling the owner or manager of said establishment. If the value of the stay is $950 or less, a person can expect to be fined a maximum of $1,000 and a potential max 6 months sentence in county jail. He, however, has been charged with 3 felony counts and each of these carries with it the potential for hefty fines and a term of 1 year in state prison.