Criminal Defense & Credit Card Fraud: Forgery, Identity Theft and Other Criminal Offenses – Part II

Consult with your NY criminal defense attorney…credit card and check fraud in New York routinely involves an enormous spectrum of crimes including Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Identity Theft, Falsifying Business Records and Grand Larceny. While these are only a few of the associated crimes in NY, your criminal defense attorney should have the experience and training to navigate you through them. As I recently explained in Part I of this segment, while some of the crimes associated with credit card and check fraud are “only” misdemeanors, some of the offense are much more serious. For the purpose of this entry, I will deal with credit card and check fraud as it relates to a specific theory or subsection of Identity Theft.

To best understand the crime of Identity Theft I am going to pose a hypothetical scenario. In this scenario you go to Kmart with your roommate’s debit/credit card. While there, you purchase $20 worth of “stuff,” sign her name on the receipt, and take off. Although you did not have her permission you figure its only $20 and it was pretty darn easy…heck, the lady at Kmart didn’t even check the signature or your identification.

So…what crimes did you just commit? Without explaining each offense in detail, here is the list of some of the potential crimes: Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (“E” felony) for possessing a stolen credit card since you did not have your roommate’s permission, Forgery in the Second Degree (“D” felony) for signing your roommate’s signature, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (“E” felony) for causing a false entry to be entered into the records of Kmart while you are committing another crime, Petit Larceny (“A” misdemeanor) for stealing the “stuff” and last, the subject of this entry, Identity Theft in the Second and First Degrees (“E” and “D” felonies respectively). And you though that was too easy…

Identity Theft in the First Degree is committed when: a person “knowingly and with intent to defraud assumes the identity of another person by presenting himself or herself as that other person, or by acting as that other person or by using personal identifying information of that other person, and thereby commits or attempts to commit a class D felony or higher level crime or acts as an accessory in the commission of a class D or higher level felony.” Identity Theft in the Second Degree differs in that the felony need only be an “E” felony.

Stepping back for a moment, the Identity Theft charge is “bumped up” to a “D”, or “E”, felony merely because that while committing the lesser Identity Theft you attempt or commit a “D” felony or greater. To put this in perspective, if you stole $20 worth of things from a store the crime would be a misdemeanor Petit Larceny. Once you add in the credit card that is stolen and you sign that person’s name without permission or authority the crime has been “bumped up” to an “E” and / or “D” felony because of the Forgery relating to the signature and the Criminal Possession of Stolen Property relating to the stolen credit card.

While this scenario is an oversimplified description of one particular theory of Identity Theft, it is important to see how serious credit card fraud can be even where the offense seems relatively small. Imagine how much more serious the case would be if the value of the property was greater or multiple credit cards were used in an ongoing scheme. The above scenario is not meant as a guide to the charges you will face or what you should or should not do (well, you should certainly not intentionally defraud anyone!!!!), but at a minimum shed light on those potential charges. Whatever the charges may be, protect yourself and your rights by retaining counsel who not only has handled these matters throughout New York, but has the experience and training as both a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. While the best way to avoid getting accused of Identity Theft is to refrain from the conduct described above or any criminal activities, you are always presumed innocent until proven otherwise and you should have someone at your side who is willing and able to advocate for you.

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