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Wanted Dead or Alive: Even the deceased can be victims of identity theft
Posted in Litigation

A recent ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit confirms that the crime of identity theft extends even beyond the grave. 

As further discussed in the Court’s decision in U.S. v. LaFaive, Anna LaFaive assumed the identity of her deceased sister, opened checking accounts in her name using counterfeited checks, and withdrew nearly $65,000 before being apprehended. A jury convicted her of two counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft under the applicable federal statute.

18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a) provides that “Whoever, during and in relation to [certain felonies] knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, with¬out lawful authority, a means of identification of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years.” LaFaive argued on appeal that because Congress did not specifically mention deceased persons under the statute, the phrase “another person” should be limited to living persons.  However, the Court ruled that “Because there is nothing in § 1028A(a)(1) that would naturally limit the definition of ‘person’ to just the living . . . we conclude that the provision’s prohibition on using the identification of ‘another person’ includes the identi¬fication of both living and deceased persons.” In other words, the Court thought that it is reasonable to assume that Con¬gress considered it unnecessary to distinguish between theft of the identity of a deceased person as opposed to a living person because the word “person” is broad enough to cover both.

Aside from the legal basis for the ruling, the case is important because it reminds us just how far some people will go to steal (identities, money, etc.) from other people.  If you think that you or someone you know has been the victim of identity fraud, contact the Litigation Practice Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP.

 

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