Los Angeles Identity Fraud Defense Attorneys
Identity fraud (also known as identity theft) is becoming increasingly common as our lives become more and more digital. As a result, there has also been a dramatic increase in prosecutions. The crime is very serious and can result in imprisonment, heavy fines, and being required to pay restitution.
Being wrongly accused of identity fraud can put you in the crosshairs of local, state, and even federal police agencies. If you are being questioned in an ongoing investigation, you are likely terrified of the possible consequences. If you have been accused of identity fraud or are under investigation for the crime, exercise your right to remain silent, and retain a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights. Legal representation can make the difference between heavy fines, years behind bars, and retaining your freedom and your reputation.
Identity fraud or identity theft in California is defined in California Penal Code 530.5 PC which states:
“Every person who willfully obtains personal identifying information … of another person, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person, is guilty of a public offense”
The penal code further states:
“Every person who, with the intent to defraud, acquires or retains possession of the personal identifying information … of another person is guilty of a public offense”
California law further clarifies identity fraud by explicitly prohibiting four distinct actions:
- Willfully obtaining personal identifying information and using it to commit fraud
- Willfully obtaining someone else’s personal identifying information, without their permission, with the intent to commit fraud
- Selling, transferring, or conveying someone else’s personal information, without their consent, and with the intention to commit fraud
- Selling, transferring or conveying someone else’s personal information with the knowledge that it will be used to commit fraud
There are several types of identity fraud that are covered in California Penal Code 530.5 PC as well as other statutes:
- Credit card fraud: Obtaining someone else’s credit card information for fraudulent use, whether you use it or not.
- Employment or tax fraud: Misrepresenting yourself using someone else’s social security number or other personal information to gain employment or tax benefits.
- Phone and utility fraud: Opening a phone line or utility account with someone else’s social security number or personal information.
- Bank fraud: Fraudulently or illegally gaining access to the bank account of another or opening a new account in their name.
- Loan or lease fraud: Using someone else’s social security number or personal information to obtain a loan or lease.
- Government benefit fraud: Misrepresenting yourself as another using their social security number or personal information to obtain government benefits, pensions, social security, or any similar advantage from the government.
A further form of identity fraud is called criminal identity fraud, which is where you misrepresent yourself as another to avoid criminal prosecution.
Identity theft is considered a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the alleged crime. In addition to restitution to the victim of the crime, identity fraud can be punished by:
- Misdemeanor: Incarceration in a county jail for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both the fine and jail time.
- Felony: Incarceration in a county jail for up to three years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both the fine and jail time.
Criminal identity fraud carries its own set of penalties in addition to the penalties for the crime that was being evaded.
If you’ve been wrongfully accused of identity fraud, some of the common and effective defenses include:
- You obtained the other person’s personal information with no intent to commit a crime, such as for statistical purposes or record verification.
- You didn’t do anything intentionally.
- In some cases, the prosecution may need to prove that you intended to commit fraud with the information – if you never committed fraud, it may be part of your defense strategy.
Identity fraud is a serious crime that comes with severe penalties. If you are being investigated or you’ve been wrongfully charged, you need the best on your side to protect your rights. Both your reputation and your life are at stake, and our award-winning team of top white-collar criminal defense lawyers will take your case through settlement, court, and every step of the way. Contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP today at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free consultation.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.