Federal Crime of Identity Theft – 18 U.S.C § 1028

Identity theft offenses occur when someone uses another’s personal information for economic gain or to take the identity of someone else. These federal offenses usually involve fraud, deception, false statements, or misrepresentations. In other words, someone steals another’s person’s identifying information, uses stolen identities, or copies information without consent.

It should be noted that the majority of identity theft case are prosecuted in a state criminal court. In federal identity theft cases, the government will only get involved if someone is stealing huge dollar amounts or using numerous identifications in order to commit other crimes.

Identity theft laws under 18 U.S.C. § 1028 makes it a crime to misuse someone’s identifying information, whether personal or financial. Personal identifying information can include social security numbers, driver’s license number, credit card or bank account information, and PIN numbers obtained through the internet.

Common methods to gain access to personal identifying information is through unsecured networks or internet purchasing scams. Common federal identify theft charges include Internet identity theft to make online purchases using someone’s credit card, submitting fraudulent credit card applications, using counterfeit credit cards or driver’s license, and forgery of a signature on a check, credit card, or debit card purchase.

18 U.S.C. § 1028 provides penalties for any person who knowingly produces an identification or false document, or possesses documents with intent to defraud. When someone commits identity theft using the internet that crossed state lines, it can be prosecuted as a federal crime.

To give readers a better understanding of the federal crime of identity theft, our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act

There are millions of identity theft victims every year. While there are many different forms of identity theft, they all have a common theme. It’s where someone’s personal information is unlawfully obtained by someone else with the specific intent to commit theft, fraud, or other type of crime.

Due to the sharp rise in identity theft cases across the United States, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. Under this Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1028 was amended to make it a federal crime to knowingly commit, attempt to commit, or aid in committing identity theft. Since it’s a federal crime, these type of cases are prosecuted in a United States District Court.

Federal prosecutors could make 18 U.S.C. § 1028 identity theft charges more severe if the identify theft occurred with another felony crime. If the other felony crime carries a longer sentence than the identify theft crime, the more severe penalty can be used against the defendant.

It should be noted that the unlawful schemes to commit Identity theft or fraud could also violate related federal statutes, such as credit card fraud, social security fraud, computer hacking, mail fraud, and wire fraud. All of these federal crimes carry severe penalties, fines, and criminal forfeiture.

18 U.S.C. § 1028 federal identity theft cases can be investigated by a many agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service, and other local and federal law enforcement agencies. They are prosecuted by assistant United States Attorneys.

Investigating Federal Identity Theft Schemes

As noted, federal law enforcement agencies won’t get involved in minor small-scale identity theft schemes with a small amount of financial loss. They will only investigate sophisticated complex schemes where there is a significant amount of money taken from identity theft.

Normally, the FBI will get involved in federal identity theft schemes. They have an identity theft page on their website that states a stolen identity is a powerful tool for criminals and a danger to national security.

Clearly, the FBI is not going to launch a criminal investigation because someone used another person’s account or information to buy some clothes at the mall. They deal with much larger illegal schemes, such as using identify theft proceeds to facilitate drug trafficking.

The FBI also investigates these crimes with partnerships with other federal, state, and local task forces. There are several types of stolen identities used to commit an 18 U.S.C. § 1028 federal identity theft crimes.

These include Social Security numbers, date of birth, birth or death certificate, address, telephone numbers, passport numbers, bank or credit card numbers, parent’s maiden name, and Medicare numbers.

Aggravated Identity Theft – 18 U.S.C § 1028A

In 2004, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act was created for enhanced penalties for aggravated identity theft. 18 U.S.C § 1028A is used by federal prosecutors to charge someone for using certain identity information.

It’s described as using the identity of someone to commit felony crimes, such as the theft of someone’s Social Security benefits, an act of domestic terrorism, and immigration violations.

Aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S.C § 1028A is defined as follows:

Whoever knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without authority, a means of identification of someone shall, in addition to the penalties for such general felony, will be sentenced to imprisonment of 2 years, or 5 years for terrorism

In other words, the Act requires the federal court to sentence two additional years for a general related offense and five years for a terrorism related offense.

It should be noted the two or five years sentence in federal court is in addition to any United States Sentencing Guidelines sentence for the other indicted charges. As noted, there is no parole in federal court.

For instance, if the indictment alleges wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, then any Guidelines sentence for a conviction of wire fraud will be decided. Next, the aggravated identify theft conviction will add two additional years to the total sentence.

Penalties for 18 U.S.C § 1028 Federal Identity Theft

If convicted of federal identity theft involving producing or transferring identification, or counterfeit, or the defendant possessed equipment to produce documents, or fraudulently obtains currency or goods up to $1,000, the penalties include up to 15 years in a federal prison, and large fines.

If convicted of federal identity theft for the purpose of drug trafficking, or connected to a violent crime, or a prior identity theft conviction, the penalties will include up to 20 years in a federal prison.

If convicted of identity theft that is connected to a means of aiding or committing domestic or international terrorism, the penalties will include up to 30 years in prison.

Fighting Federal Identify Theft Charges

If you are under investigation for federal identify theft, you should not give consent to interview with federal law enforcement agents without consult with an attorney.

If you know you are under investigation for identity theft or identification fraud, contact our federal criminal defense lawyers to guide you through critical early decisions on how to handle investigators or federal prosecutors. We may be able to negotiate to avoid formal filing of charges.

It should be noted that federal identity theft cases often involve other related crimes, such as credit card fraud or computer crimes.  This means a conviction can be life-altering.

We might be able to take steps to minimize the consequences of an arrest, but we need to first thoroughly review all the details of the case in order to determine an appropriate strategy for best possible outcome.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm that represents clients throughout the United States on all type of federal offenses. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office located in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us for a consultation at (877) 781-1570.