What is IdentityTheft?
Identity Theft is definedcriminal act of fraudulentlyobtaining the personal information belonging to another individual, and subsequently assuming that person’sidentity without the expressed consent – this type of fraudulent representation can be facilitated in order to achieve a variety of outcomes. Typically, an individual committing identity theft will utilize deceptive means in order to gain access to the personal and private information belonging to another individual; this can be done through wire fraud or the illegal entry into an individual’s personal records – once this information is obtained, the individual committing identity theft will typically pose as that individual, unlawfully acting in that person’s place in order to achieve economic gain.
Types of Identity Theft
Although the criminal means of Identity Theft can vary in nature and setting, a vast array of negative outcome – in the form of damage, theft, and loss – exist; due to the expansiveness of Identity Theft, the severity of the crime is oftentimes corollary to the severity of the latent consequence(s) – loss sustained as a result of Identity Theft can range from the misappropriation of monies to the unlawful attainment of documentation.
Identity Theft and Cyber Law
Many consider the most common form of Identity Theft to be facilitated through the useof virtual networks. In many cases, virtual networks – akin to a large majority of electronic communicative devices – reside within the jurisdiction of Cyber Law; additional means of electronic identity theft can include information technology networks, telecommunications, and the Internet:
• Online Identity theft can result in the illegal attainment of stolen property and goods acquired through an online commercial marketplace; this is also known as E-Commerce (electronic commerce)
• Purchase orders can be placed by individuals in possession of unlawful personal and financial information, while the victim will discover charges incurred for products and goods delivered elsewhere; in order to reduce the risk of capture, individuals well-versed in Identity Theft will request that the goods be shipped to anonymous, remote locations
• The attainment of passwords
Identity Theft and Immigration Law
The facilitation of Identity Theft as a means to unlawfully attain illegal – albeit official – documentation is not uncommon. In lieu of engaging in the legal procedure of the adjustment of individual immigration status, criminal operations have taken to the illegal attainment of personal information under the ownership of a victim in order to submit fraudulent documentation. As a result, official – and oftentimes governmental – documentation can be acquired in such deceptive means; in a majority of cases, the victims will be unaware as to document and form requests unlawfully conducted in their name:
• Through the use of stolen – or immigration documentation attained by illicit means – individuals can fraudulently assume the identity of others in order to claim immigration status, adjust employment status, and gain access to unlawful financial accounts
• Stolen – or fraudulently attained immigration documentation – can pose a security threat, as well; without reputable identification, tabs and records cannot be adequately kept with regard to individuals leaving and entering the United States
On November 28, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California stated that Angus Brown, aka “Homicide,” and Arman Sharopetrosian, aka “Horse,” received additional prison sentences for operating a identity theft scheme out of the Avenal State Prison.
The two men and other Armenian Power gang members worked with African-American street gang members and bribed co-conspirators at banks in order to gain control of bank accounts. The scheme caused at least $8 million in losses.
United States District Judge David O. Carter said it was one of the most sophisticated fraud schemes he’s seen in his time as a judge.
Angus Brown was serving a prison term for identity theft at the time of his arrest, and Arman Sharopetrosian was serving a 10-year sentence for shooting at a car and carrying a concealed weapon.
During the scheme, Brown and Sharopetrosian were able to steal bank information from mostly elderly victims and forged signatures of the victims. Checks worth large amounts of money were then deposited in bank accounts set up the conspirators. Recruited bank employees identified accounts and victims that were less likely to notice their identities were stolen.
During the case, prosecutors stated: “[The defendants’] express purpose was to target bank customers with large-value accounts who were not proficient in checking up on their accounts via the Internet [and] sought to use that information to plunder the victims’ life savings.”
Sharopetrosian was found guilty of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identity fraud. Brown pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy, bank fraud, and 17 counts of aggravated identity theft.
20 defendants were named in the indictment, and most of the defendants will be sentenced in the next couple of months. Some of the defendants have already received 51 months in prison.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
On November 26, 2012, the Department of Justice announced that Jose Sergio Garcia-Ramirez from Rockford, Illinois, received 58 months in prison for trafficking stolen identities and other identifying documents. He was ordered to forfeit $35,900, and he will be removed from the United States after he serves time in prison.
According to court documents, individuals in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico were able to obtain Puerto Rican identities and other identifying documents. Conspirators also operated in the United States and sold social security cards and Puerto Rican birth certificates for $700 to $2,500.
The brokers asked for the identities from the Savarona suppliers by using coded telephone calls and text messages. The calls initiated money transfers after which documents were sent by U.S. mail.
Court documents further indicate that some of the brokers used Puerto Rican identities to use in part with their trafficking operation as well. Most of the customers, however, used the Puerto Rican identities to obtain state driver’s licenses. Some of the customers went as far as committing financial fraud with the identities.
The Justice Department states that brokers in the scheme were operating in at least the following areas:
• Rockford, IL
• DeKalb, IL
• Aurora, IL
• Seymour, IN
• Columbus, IN
• Indianapolis, IN
• Hartford, CT
• Clewistown, FL
• Lilburn, GA
• Norcross, GA
• Salisbury, MD
• Columbus, OH
• Fairfield, OH
• Dorchester, MA
• Lawrence, MA
• Salem, MA
• Worcester, MA
• Grand Rapids, MI
• Nebraska City, NE
• Elizabeth, NJ
• Burlington, NC
• Hickory, NC
• Hazleton, PA
• Philadelphia, PA
• Houston, TX
• Abingdon, VA
• Albertville, AL
• Providence, RI
53 people have been charged for participating in the identity trafficking scheme, and 18 of the defendants have pleaded guilty so far.
Source: Department of Justice
On November 8, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported the Christopher Andre Devine from Philadelphia pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The stolen identities were used to open fake bank accounts.
During the plea agreement, Devine and co-defendants admitted that they opened bank accounts in order to get check cards. The co-conspirators would then deposit fraudulent checks into the accounts and withdraw cash from ATM machines. The co-defendants are Quanishia Williamson-Ross and Lenee E. Williamson.
Devine admitted that he stole identities from 21 people in an adult residential program for mental needs after he purchased the information from an employee with the program. Devine used this information to open checking accounts over the telephone and internet.
Devine and the co-defendants bought items from restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and numerous other businesses with the check cards. They also used the check card to pay for utilities like cable and cell phones.
Devine was caught in December of 2011 when authorities searched a van and two different residences occupied by the defendants. They found hundreds of credit cards, debit cards, social security cards, driver’s licenses, and personal information like names, addresses, credit information, and social security numbers.
About 300 people had their identities stolen in all, and 21 were from the mental health program. There were a total of 73 fraudulent bank accounts opened.
Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the bank fraud and two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft.
The investigation was led by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, the IRS’s Criminal Investigations, and the Social Security Administration in Philadelphia. The enforcement was part of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
On October 16, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced that Tigran Khachatrian of Glendale, California, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for a huge identity theft scheme as well as for the possession of counterfeit devices. The sentencing stems from a routine traffic stop that occurred in December of 2010.
During the traffic stop, an Oregon State Trooper stopped Khachatrian and the co-defendant, Arsen Dabaghyan, on Interstate 5 around the Medford area. They state trooper asked to search the car, and the two defendants consented to the search. The state trooper found a total of 139 credit cards, 123 gift cards, and false forms of identification. Additionally, the state trooper found three laptop computers, four cell phones, an MSP digital card reader, a GPS device, a digital camera, and instructions for keypad configurations at gas stations in California and Washington.
After an investigation by the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force, it was determined that one of the laptops had software to create credit cards and debits cards. Another program had the ability to pull information from skimmed bank cards.
The FBI led a further investigation and found that the defendants placed skimming devices at multiple gas stations in the state of Washington in order to steal account information from the victims. The defendants were able to obtain the credit card numbers and card holder information and then create duplicate credit cards with their computer.
Khachatrian had multiple theft convictions in 1986. He also had charges for identity theft, forgery and more in 2003. After he serves his 70 months in federal prison, Khachatrian will receive three years of supervised release. He is also ordered to pay restitution and forfeit all of the equipment that was used during the crimes.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
On November 7, 2012, the Department of Justice reported that Andrew J Watts was sentenced to 114 months in prison by US District Judge Joan Gottschall in Chicago. He was also ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution for stealing identities and engaging in a federal income tax refund fraud scheme. Watts is a Barbados national.
Court documents show that Watts filed the fraudulent federal income tax returns from 2007 to 2011. He used the names of deceased taxpayers and forged their signatures to obtain the fraudulent refunds, and he even claimed himself as the deceased person’s representative in some cases.
In total, Watts filed more than 470 fraudulent federal income tax returns. He is believed to have claimed about $120 million, and the Internal Revenue Service issued over $10 million in refunds. In order to conceal the fraud, Watts instructed the IRS to send the refund checks to an electronic deposit or an address he controlled.
Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, stated: “While all taxpayers are victims when criminals file false tax returns using stolen identities, those who falsely use the names of deceased individuals add to the grief and burdens of their families.”
Watts pleaded guilty on July 10, 2012, and he pleaded to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of mail fraud.
IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Weber noted: “IRS-Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority and we will vigorously pursue those who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system. Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. King, Jr. with the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Michelle Petersen with the Department of Justice’s Tax Division were in charge of prosecution.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice