I Used a Credit Card that Belonged to Someone Else: Potential Criminal Charges in New York Part I

Do I need a New York criminal lawyer? I found a credit card in Manhattan and used that credit card to buy a pair of jeans at Macys for $175. I took my friend’s credit card and purchased $600 worth of makeup and other accessories in a Brooklyn store without my friend’s permission. I used a credit card that was fake and had another person’s account number programmed on to it. What is “credit card fraud” and did I commit it? Can I be charged with a felony or go to prison? What are the crimes and potential charges in New York City for credit card fraud?

The following blog entry is a brief analysis of the potential crimes in New York State relating to credit card theft and possession, use of a stolen credit card, counterfeit and fake credit cards and other offenses. These potential crimes range from “A” misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail to “D” felonies punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

New York Penal Law 155.30(4) & 165.45(2)

If you steal or possess a stolen credit card, the potential charge is either Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (NY PL 155.30(4)) or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (NY PL 165.45(2)). Both of these crimes are “E” felonies punishable by up to four years in state prison. It is critical to note that you can be charged with this felony for each credit card you steal or stolen credit card you possess. Moreover, the same crime applies to debit cards as well.

Another important issue with these crimes is as follows. If you are accused, for example, of stealing a purse or possessing a stolen purse that contains credit cards in it, you need not have the explicit knowledge that you possessed a stolen credit card, but that you possessed stolen property. Also, possessing a stolen credit card that is canceled or revoked is no different than possessing an operating credit or debit card.

New York Penal Law 170.10

Forgery in the Second Degree is a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison. You can be charged with the crime of NY PL 170.10 if and when you fraudulently sign the rightful name of the debit or credit card holder on the transaction receipt. Regardless of the value of the items purchased, if you sign this person’s name without their permission or authority and you do so with the intent to defraud the store or the credit card company, then Forgery is the applicable charge. The same is true if you sign an illegible name. As long as you complete or draft this written instrument (i.e, the receipt), then you likely perpetrated this crime. Compounding matters, this Forgery may be the basis of another felony that prosecutors can charge. That felony, as will be discussed later, is Identity Theft in the First Degree.

New York Penal Law 170.25

Criminal Possession of a Forged instrument in the Second Degree, like Forgery in the Second Degree, is a “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. NY PL 170.25 is the “sister” crime to NY PL 170.15. The easiest way to look at this crime in the context of credit card fraud is in two distinct examples. The first occurs where you sign a name to the credit card receipt (the Forgery) and, as a result, create the complete and whole transaction record. This finalized receipt that was complete with the signature is the forged instrument. A second example would occur where the credit card itself is a counterfeit or fake credit card. If you possess this fraudulent credit card that appears to be a legitimate card (maybe it has another person’s real name or is encoded with a stolen account number) and you have the intent to deceive another with it, then you will likely be charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree

Regardless of the crime charged, it is extremely important to recognize that even an accusation of a felony can alter, if not destroy, the career of a student, lawyer, physician, teacher or financial services employee. Even without going to prison, what will be revealed on a background check and what certifications or licenses will be compromised? Whether you are a target of an investigation or you have already been arrested, consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney before speaking to the police, prosecutors or any law enforcement agent is critical. It could be that without your admission or statement, the prosecution’s case will not have the same strength and durability against you.

A second entry dealing with credit card fraud in its various forms will address the additional crimes and degrees of Identity Theft and Falsifying Business Records. However, extensive information on these and other crimes are located on the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog and the Crotty Saland website.

Elizabeth Crotty and Jeremy Saland, our two founding New York criminal defense attorneys, served in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for six and seven years respectively prior to starting the law firm. Our criminal lawyers represent the accused from investigation through trial in the New York City region.

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