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How Is Credit Card Fraud Punished in Florida Court? A Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer's Perspective

June 13, 2018

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Running a credit card lab can lead to a federal criminal record and years of incarceration. The U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security recently executed a search warrant at a one bedroom apartment in Hialeah, Florida. In addition to finding some expensive jewelry, the agents discovered thousands of counterfeit credit cards ready for use and another 50,0000 blank credit cards (ones that have not been prepared for use). Additional items such as credit card printers, a magnetic strip encoder, media storage devices, and computers were also located at the residence. A search of the flash drives revealed about 50,000 stolen credit card numbers and personal information, such as names, addresses, and social security numbers. What can they expect in court? Each case varies, but we'll go through the ramifications of credit card fraud and the various increases and levels in charges that a person can expect. As Miami credit card fraud lawyers, we deal with this kind of case frequently.

Credit Card Fraud
A Miami Credit Card Fraud Case

According to the federal agents, the defendants were producing in excess of 1,000 cards per day. After entering a guilty plea, one of the defendants received 12 years in prison for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, trafficking in counterfeit credit cards/devices, and aggravated identity theft. The other defendant has entered a guilty plea, but is awaiting sentencing. The hearing will likely result in the same sentence. The only disparities would occur based on whether or not the defendants cooperated with the authorities or whether either of the defendants had prior criminal records.

The charge of theft or fraud is a relatively low ranking offense under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. However, there are numerous enhancements that can increase the sentence by multiple levels. We will cover the most common enhancements.
  • Number of victims. One of the first enhancements to apply is related to the number of victims. If there are 10 or more victims, a 2-level enhancement will apply. More than 50 victims, and a 4-level enhancement will apply. If there are more than 250 victims, a 6-level enhancement will apply.

  • Use of device making equipment, or the production of or trafficking in counterfeit access devices. If the fraudulent credit activity involves the use of any device making equipment or the production or trafficking of same, there is a 2-level increase.

  • Loss amount. In cases involving counterfeit access devices or unauthorized access devices, the amount of loss includes any unauthorized charges and shall not be less than $500 per access device. In short, there need not be any physical loss. For example, an individual caught with 25,000 names with personal information will be hit with $500 times 25,000. This amounts to a loss of $12,500,000. Although no monetary loss was suffered in this example, a defendant will receive a 20-level increase when calculating their sentencing guidelines.

  • Sophisticated means. A defendant can also be hit with a 2-level increase if the fraud was considered to be committed using a sophisticated means. Most jurisdictions will use this enhancement due to the use of computers and access devices.
Identity Theft
What about Aggravated Identity Theft?

Another interesting point in these types of cases is the charge of aggravated identity theft. In these types of cases, the federal government will almost always charge this offense. Aggravated identity theft occurs whenever an individual commits a theft or fraud and also knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses without authority, a means of identification of another person. Just possessing one person's name address and social security puts this statute in play. In sum, anyone charged with this offense will get a two-year mandatory minimum sentence added to their guideline sentence. For example if a person is sentenced to 50 months based on the sentencing guidelines, the judge will add an additional two years on top of the sentence. It will be imposed consecutively, meaning that the two years will not begin to run until the guideline sentence has been completed.

Have You Been Charged with Credit Card Fraud?

It is easy to see how things can stack up against individuals accused of credit card fraud. The Miami criminal lawyers at DMT have represented dozens of individuals charged with credit card fraud both in state and federal court. If you have been charged in either venue, DMT has the experience and zealous approach to criminal defense to represent individuals accused of such offenses. Always remember, invoke your rights and do not speak with law enforcement. Speaking to law enforcement only creates evidence against the person suspected of being involved in a crime. Contact Donet, McMillan & Trontz at (305) 444-0030 for more information.

Miami Herald
Categories: Identity Theft
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