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Identity theft is high on the radar of New York law enforcement

The consequences of a conviction for identity theft are serious and charges should be vigorously challenged.

It seems we hear daily that personal information was stolen, exposing rightful owners to potential identity theft. Recently, Target, Home Depot and Anthem were electronically hacked by thieves who apparently took personal identifying information of millions of people.

As of February 17, 2015, the nonprofit Identify Theft Resource Center had already identified 101 data breaches in 2015.

Beyond large breaches, individuals on a smaller scale are taking identities for their own fraudulent use. For example, consider the February 2015 New York Post story about an ex-New York Police Department officer sentenced to more than two years in prison for giving to an outside accomplice the personal identifying information of members of the public gleaned from internal police business, as well as the identifying information of another police officer.

The NYPD's website says that identity theft is the "fastest growing crime in America." What we are talking about is the potential financial exposure to an individual whose identifying information (name, address, birth date, social security number, mother's maiden name and so on) is stolen. The thief then could use it to access the victim's accounts, apply for loans and credit and use the proceeds to make purchases, commit tax refund fraud and other similar uses.

While we all agree that identity thieves must be stopped, during the heightened attention of law enforcement to the problem, it is possible that innocent people could get swept up in criminal investigations and wrongly charged.

In New York, being accused or convicted of a white collar crime - a crime of fraud but not violence - like identity theft is no small matter, considering the potentially steep sentence and harm to reputation.

New York identity theft crimes

New York defines the crime of identity theft as the knowing intention to commit fraud by assuming someone else identity by presenting the perpetrator as the other person, by acting as that person or by using that person's "personal identifying information" to get something of value, use credit in that person's name or inflict financial harm on that person or someone else; or to commit a crime.

There are three degrees of identity theft. Basically, the crime (and punishment) gets more serious as the amount of money at stake rises, the attendant crime worsens or for repeat offenders. In addition, someone commits aggravated identity theft when the amount at stake is over $500 against a U.S. military member stationed overseas.

New York also has other crimes related to identity theft like the unlawful possession of another person's personal identification information or of a skimmer device designed to skim account numbers off of credit and similar cards.

Punishment for New York identity theft or a similar offense can be severe and may include one or more of these:

  • Restitution
  • Prison
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • And more

In addition, federal laws criminalize the same or similar behaviors.

Seek aggressive criminal defense

If you are a New Yorker under investigation for or facing charges of identity theft, you should immediately seek the advice of an experienced New York criminal defense attorney. The negative consequences of a conviction are too serious not to. In addition, your personal and business reputation could be permanently harmed.

Your lawyer will launch an investigation on your behalf and build a vigorous defense. He or she can negotiate with the prosecution for a potential plea deal or fight for you at trial, if necessary.

With offices in Brooklyn and on Fifth Avenue, the New York white collar defense lawyers at Aidala Bertuna & Kamins aggressively battle charges of federal and state identity theft for their clients.

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