United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Convicted of Access Device Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
On March 9, 2017, a West Palm Beach USPS letter carrier was convicted at trial of conspiring to commit access device fraud, access device fraud, and five counts of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is scheduled for May 19, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg.
According to the court record, including evidence introduced at trial, the USPS employee – who was working as a letter carrier – engaged in a scheme to obtain fraudulent unemployment benefits from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) by providing coconspirators with the residential addresses of approximately 50 to 60 individuals on his postal route. Fraudulent unemployment applications, using the addresses and stolen identities of postal customers, were then submitted to DEO and resulted in the issuance of Florida Visa debit cards, which were mailed through interstate commerce to the residential addresses on the defendant’s postal route. The cards were ultimately transferred to at least one other co-conspirator and used to make withdrawals from ATMs. As a result of the fraudulent scheme, the State of Florida sustained approximately $90,000 in financial losses.
Access Device Fraud
It’s a federal crime under 18 USC § 1029(a)(1) to traffic in counterfeit credit cards or other “access devices.” For the purposes of this law, “access device” is any personal information or any other code (including credit card number or personal identification number (PIN)) that can be used to obtain money, goods or services, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds. For example, sharing another person’s birthdate and social security number could be considered trafficking in an “access device.”
Access Device Fraud is a serious offense, and a conviction generally results in a sentence of up to ten (10) years imprisonment and an applicable fine. However, if the offense occurs after a previous conviction under section 1029, the maximum prison sentence increases to twenty (20) years.
Aggravated Identity Theft
It’s a federal crime under 18 USC § 1028A(a)(1) to knowingly transfer, possess or use another person’s means of identification without lawful authority, during or in relation to the commission of certain other eligible felonies.
Federal courts generally treat Aggravated Identity Theft as sentencing enhancement, since by the statute a conviction does not result in a stand-alone sentence, but rather adds two (2) years to the sentence for the underlying felonies. Despite this apparently clear statutory framework, some federal courts however have recently ruled that a person can be convicted only of Aggravated Identity Theft – without being found guilty of an underlying predicate felony.
If You Have Been Charged with Identity Theft or Any Related Crimes
If you have been charged with identity theft or access device fraud, first these charges are likely to have been filed in a federal court. In the event you have been accused of a federal crime, it is critical that you seek the advice and counsel of a lawyer that is experienced in federal criminal law and in federal criminal court. While many lawyers practice in the field of criminal defense, very few are experienced in defending federal criminal charges in federal criminal court. Deric Zacca is an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer who has handled over 100 federal criminal cases. Call him today for an initial consultation.