Identity theft is a form of fraud under both state and federal law. Under federal law, “fraud” is defined as devising or intending to devise any scheme to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by way of false pretenses or promises, or the transmission of fraudulent activity by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce (18 U.S.C. § 1343). There is serious punishment for identity theft that you can incur if you are charged with the crime.

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience handling hundreds of fraud cases on behalf of our clients. If you are facing federal or state fraud charges, our knowledgeable attorneys will provide you with excellent personal service to help you through this challenge. Our attorneys would like to share with you the following case recently heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals where a woman appealed her convictions for fraud and identity theft. She was not successful.

United States of America v. Stargell, No. 11-50392 (9th Cir. Oct. 17, 2013)

punishment for identity theft
The punishment for identity theft can be very harsh because it is a federal crime. If you are facing charges of identity theft, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Defendant Willena Stargell received state certification for completing a tax preparation course. She opened her own business called Liberty Bell Tax Service (“LBTS”) in 2003 and began preparing federal income tax returns. She devised a scheme to obtain refund anticipation loans (“RAL”) from banks based on fraudulent returns containing false statements. The IRS eventually detected the fraud, declining to issue the tax refund, but not before some of the banks had already issued loans to the defendant.

At her trial, the government was able to prove that the defendant engaged in identity theft by using the names and social security numbers of former clients and other individuals without their knowledge or consent in order to prepare and file the fraudulent tax returns and ultimately request the loans. She was convicted of fraud by wire and aggravated identity theft, sentenced to 42 months imprisonment, and ordered to pay $362, 796.07 in restitution. She appealed.

The Court of Appeal Affirmed the Defendant’s Conviction

The 9th Circuit upheld her conviction, stating that “[t]he increased risk of loss presented by fraudulent terms is sufficient to ‘affect’ a financial institution. Regarding the definition of ‘affects’ in 18 U.S.C. § 1343, we join our sister circuits in defining such term to include new or increased risk of loss to financial institutions….Here, the fraudulent returns affected the banks regardless of whether or not the banks ultimately paid out a RAL and suffered any loss. The banks were affected because the risk of loss on the RALs was increased by the fraudulent nature of the related returns.”

Federal Law Punishment for Identity Theft

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1028(A), it is a federal offense to knowingly and without lawful authority produce an identity document, “authentication feature,” or false identification, and then transferring it knowing that such documentation or feature was stolen or produced without lawful authority.

If you are convicted of committing identity theft pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1028, you can be sentenced to serve up to 15 years in a federal prison and fined (18 U.S.C. § 1028(b)(1).). If you commit identity theft in order to facilitate a violent crime or drug trafficking, your punishment can increase to up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine (18 U.S.C. § 1028(b)(3).). If you engage in identity theft in order to facilitate a crime of domestic terrorism, you face up to 30 years in a federal prison (18 U.S.C. § 1028(b)(4).).

If the federal government is charging you with fraudulent activity involving identity theft, you need experienced legal representation from the law firm of Wallin & Klarich to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Defeat Charges of Identity Theft

If you or someone you care about is facing state or federal identity theft charges, you should contact an attorney at Wallin & Klarich right away. The criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients facing identity theft charges. We will protect your constitutional rights and make certain you are treated fairly through every step of your criminal proceedings.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, the identity theft defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available to represent you in either state or federal court. We will aggressively pursue every defense available to help you win your case.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


Author: Matthew Wallin

Matthew B. Wallin is an experienced and knowledgeable attorney at Wallin & Klarich. He approaches each case as an opportunity to help an individual at a time when they need it most and understands that he is the one they have turned to for help.   Mr. Wallin has represented hundreds of our clients in cases involving DUI and DMV hearings, domestic violence, assault and battery, drug crimes, misdemeanors and serious felonies. With extensive experience handling DUI cases, Mr. Wallin is one of the premiere DUI defense attorney in Southern California.

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