South Florida Identity Thefts on the Rise
The alleged perpetrator was a bit unexpected, but the crime accused was not.
A clerk of the court for Broward County was recently convicted for committing identity theft. Authorities say she used her job-related computer systems in the misdemeanor and traffic division to gain access to people’s personal information – names, driver’s license numbers, bank accounts, dates of birth, Social Security numbers – which she then sold to another person for cash. That second party then used the information to file phony tax returns submitted for government refund checks.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys recognize that South Florida has gained a reputation three years’ running: The No.1 hub of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity theft is a crime that can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level. If state authorities decide to pick up the case, the defendant will most likely be charged under Florida Statute 817.568, which governs criminal use of personal identification information. This is defined as any person who willfully and without authorization uses or possesses another person’s identifying information with intent to use it for fraudulent purposes without his or her consent commits a third-degree felony. This is punishable by up to five years in prison.
If the person’s identity theft involves 10 to 20 people, it’s bumped up to a second-degree felony, which makes it punishable by up to 15 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 3 years behind bars.
If the identity theft involves 20 to 30 people, the mandatory minimum is bolstered to 5 years, although the crime remains a second-degree felony.
If the identity theft involves more than 30 people, he or she will face a first-degree felony, punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of receiving up to 30 years.
It’s an extremely serious crime. And the reality is, most people with alleged involvement in such action amass more than 30 identities.
At the federal level, aggravated identity theft is defined in 18 U.S.c. 1028A. This carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years behind bars.
In the case of the Broward court clerk, she pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors are recommending a three-year prison term, in exchange for her cooperation regarding others involved in the scam.
The FTC reports that the number of identity crime thefts doubled from 2011 to 2012. In Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, there were reportedly a total of nearly 36,000 identity theft in 2012. That is roughly 645 complaints for every 100,000 people. In 2011, there were approximately 17,500 complaints of identity theft in the region.
While some of those involve individuals raiding mailboxes or using some other means, a growing number of cases involve professionals who use their access to sensitive information through work-related computer networks in order to obtain the information.
Some other examples of recent cases:
–A therapist at South Miami Hospital pleaded guilty in federal court this summer to stealing the identities of some 800 patients;
–A former patient scheduler at a hospital in Boca Raton was sentenced this summer to 1.5 years in prison for heisting patient identities, which were then used to file nearly five dozen fraudulent tax returns;
–A senior Palm Beach Health Department clerk was arrested for allegedly stealing the identities of some 2,800 patients. Prosecutors are recommending a five-year prison term;
–A school employee for Broward County was sentenced to five years behind bars for stealing teachers’ identities and then reselling that information to others who filed bogus tax returns.
Many times, the people involved in these situations have never before been in trouble. Even if your situation seems dire, you do have options. A strong defense attorney is going to be key to ensuring that your rights and that the best outcome possible is achieved in your case..
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Former Broward court clerk pleads guilty to ID theft, Oct. 28, 2013, By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Unreliable Witness for the Prosecution: an Advantage for the Defense, Oct. 11, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Felony Defense Lawyer Blog