Two Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)officers discovered a large identity theft right during a routine traffic stop recently. The two officers were watching traffic on Interstate 10 in Washington County, when they spotted a man driving a van without his seatbelt on. According to WJHG, after the officers pulled him over, they saw several “criminal indicators.”
The troopers found 24 fake licenses
After establishing probable cause, the troopers searched the van. They found 23 fake Florida driver’s licenses and one fake Indiana license. Each fraudulent license had a different name and address on it, but all the licenses had the same picture.
They also discovered information from 43 possible victims
The trooper also found handwritten notes with personal identification of at least 43 possible victims. In addition to the licenses, they also found cash, cell phones and phone accessories.
Men face 133 counts of identity theft crimes
Derron Skinner and Erik Castaneda were both arrested and charged with 133 charges related to identity theft. Both men are from the area around Houston, Texas. The FHP has identified 20 of the 24 licenses as victims of identity theft.
Identity theft can be charged as a felony
A person who assumes the identity of another person for financial benefit can be charged with identity theft. Usually, this is accomplished by using an individual’s personal identifying information like a social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, name, address or some combination of this information.
Anyone accused of identity theft faces stiffer charges and penalties for larger sums of money. If 20 or more individuals had their personal information stolen, the penalties also increase. In Florida, a crime with this many victims is a first-degree felony. For a first-degree felony conviction, a person faces up to thirty years in prison. Those convicted of identity theft charges also must pay fines, as well as pay the victims back.
A conviction for identity theft has serious consequences. If you were accused of identity theft, you will want experienced legal representation by your side. An attorney can examine the evidence against you, advise you on a defense strategy and negotiate on your behalf.