The Department of Justice prosecutes cases of identity theft and fraud under a variety of federal statutes. In the fall of 1998, for example, Congress passed theIdentity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act . This legislation created a new offense of identity theft, which prohibits “knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.”
18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7). This offense, in most circumstances, carries a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.
Schemes to commit identity theft or fraud may also involve violations of other statutes such as identification fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1028), credit card fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1029), computer fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1030), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), or financial institution fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344). Each of these federal offenses are felonies that carry substantial penalties in some cases, as high as 30 years’ imprisonment, fines, and criminal forfeiture.
Federal prosecutors work with federal investigative agencies such as theFederal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, and theUnited States Postal Inspection Service to prosecute identity theft and fraud cases.
Here are some examples of recent cases:
Central District of California. A woman pleaded guilty to federal charges of using a stolen Social Security number to obtain thousands of dollars in credit and then filing for bankruptcy in the name of her victim. More recently, a man was indicted, pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment for obtaining private bank account information about an insurance company’s policyholders and using that information to deposit $764,000 in counterfeit checks into a bank account he established.
Central District of California. Two of three defendants have pleaded guilty to identity theft, bank fraud, and related charges for their roles in a scheme to open bank accounts with both real and fake identification documents, deposit U.S. Treasury checks that were stolen from the mail, and withdraw funds from those accounts.
Middle District of Florida. A defendant has been indicted on bank fraud charges for obtaining names, addresses, and Social Security numbers from a Web site and using those data to apply for a series of car loans over the Internet.
Southern District of Florida. A woman was indicted and pleaded guilty to federal charges involving her obtaining a fraudulent driver’s license in the name of the victim, using the license to withdraw more than $13,000 from the victim’s bank account, and obtaining five department store credit cards in the victim’s name and charging approximately $4,000 on those cards.
District of Kansas. A defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy, odometer fraud, and mail fraud for operating an odometer “rollback” scheme on used cars. The defendant used false and assumed identities, including the identities of deceased persons, to obtain false identification documents and fraudulent car titles.