Federal prosecutors announced on June 30 that an investigation into credit card fraud at Florida State University has led to the indictment of seven individuals on bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. One of the individuals indicted once played football for the University of Florida. The others are all either current or former FSU students. The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the FSU Police Department.
According to court documents, the suspects used text messaging applications and computers to obtain credit and debit card numbers from third parties. They then allegedly used this information to transfer funds into their own bank accounts and the accounts of fellow students. These students were then allegedly told to use the money to purchase items from the campus bookstore and then hand the items over to the suspects. U.S. attorneys say the suspects fraudulently obtained confidential information between July and October 2017.
The credit card fraud scheme allegedly generated about $53,000 for the suspects. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 17 in Tallahassee. Each bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison. Each identity theft count carries a mandatory minimum penalty of two years.
When a large group of suspects is taken into custody, prosecutors often make generous sentencing offers to encourage at least one of them to cooperate and testify against the others. They may then use this cooperation to convince the other defendants to agree to plead guilty. Criminal defense attorneys with experience in cases involving white-collar crimes may anticipate this strategy, and they could recommend that their clients act sooner rather than later if they are considering a negotiated settlement. This is because prosecutors tend to become far less generous once they feel that they have enough evidence to prevail in court.