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In Word And Deed: What Is Aggravated Identity Theft?

In March, 35-year old Tampa resident Nedal Faisal Ahmad admitted to processing fraudulent tax returns and cashing fraudulent U.S. Treasury checks through his business.

He pled guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. In June, he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison plus a fine of more than $35,000.

If you are facing charges of aggravated identity theft, what does that mean to you? In 1998, the United States Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. The law prohibits the use of the identity of another during the commission of a state or federal felony. In 2004, a second law heightened penalties for identity theft when it is associated with terrorism or certain other federal crimes.

The federal crimes that trigger the enhanced charge of aggravated identity theft actually include numerous forms of mail, wire, bank, immigration and other fraud. Because conviction entails a mandatory, consecutive two-year prison term, use of the aggravated form means that prosecutors can pursue additional prison time for essentially the same offense.

The elements of aggravated identity theft include the following:

  • Commission of a felony crime as defined by Title 18 of the U.S. Code, section 1028

  • Knowing transfer, use or possession of the means of identification of another

  • The use of that identification without lawful authority

A successful defense to a charge of aggravated identity theft could attack the underlying crime, the knowledge needed of the nature of that crime, the means of identification used, and whether there was — or was not — lawful authority to use the identification.

Depending on the facts of the case, resolution could also be achieved by seeking a reduction of the charges in exchange for a guilty plea to the underlying crime — without the sentencing enhancement of aggravated identity theft.

It is essential to seek seasoned criminal defense when you are arrested for identity theft or another criminal offense.

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