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Identity Theft

Identity theft is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as unlawfully obtaining another person’s identifying information and using it to commit theft or fraud. Identity theft is illegal under New York State law, as well as under federal law.


A defendant accused of identity theft could face serious consequences, especially as some identity theft offenses carry mandatory minimum prison terms. When a crime has a mandatory minimum sentence, the only way to stay out of prison is to avoid being convicted of the offense or to negotiate a plea agreement to face a lesser charge. Defendants can not only face criminal prosecution, but could also be sued in a civil action and face significant financial liability.


At Bukh & Associates, PLLC, our New York criminal defense lawyers have represented some of the most notorious identity thieves in the world. We have represented clients from multiple countries accused of running identity theft rings and organizing large-scale identity theft scams. We help clients to fight against criminal charges, to negotiate plea agreements, and to do everything possible to reduce penalties or avoid being convicted of an identity theft offense. To learn more about how we can help with your case, give us a call today and schedule a consultation.


What is Identity Theft?

Identity-theftIdentity theft involves improperly obtaining personal identifying information for any purpose. Personal identifying information could include:


  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Birth dates
  • Medicare numbers and insurance membership numbers
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Financial account numbers
  • Passports and passport numbers
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card information
  • Passwords
  • Security question answers including maiden names and parent’s middle names)
  • Biometric data including fingerprints and iris scans


The identifying information may be used in any type of scheme to defraud. Identity theft offenses range from using someone else’s ID to get a job or buy alcohol to stealing thousands of credit card numbers and distributing them to vast criminal networks.


The type of identity theft, the means used to obtain the identifying information, and the amount of money involved in the identity theft scheme are going to have a significant impact on the specific criminal charges and potential penalties that a defendant may face.

Types of Identity Theft

Identity theft can take many different forms including:


Online/ Internet or cyber identity theft

Hackers may obtain thousands of credit cards and email addresses by hacking into company or individual computer systems. Target stores were subject to a security breach in which the identifying information of as many as 40 million customers was obtained. Cyber identity theft can result not only in identity theft charges but also in computer crimes charges.


Corporate or business identity theft

The Small Business Association estimates that business identity theft causes as much as $221 billion in annual costs. Among other types of business or corporate identity theft, a business can have its identity stolen and used by scammers to process phony credit card transactions.



Phishing is a common technique used to obtain private identifying information. Scammers may send emails, letters or make phone calls to try to acquire credit card numbers, passwords, user names and other information. The emails or phone calls often purport to be from a trusted source, such as a bank calling or emailing to confirm account information or a doctor’s office calling to confirm medical information.


Financial identity theft (bank information and ATM information)

Bank and ATM information can be obtained through a card skimming machine that attaches to ATM devices or card readers and records account data. Phishing scams and hacking can also make it possible to obtain account and bank information and commit financial identity theft.


Medical ID theft

Medical identity theft involves the use of someone’s identifying information, including insurance account information or Medicare numbers, to obtain healthcare services. In some cases, medical ID theft is also part of a fraudulent billing scheme. Insurance information is obtained and insurers are billed for services never performed.


Credit bureau scams ID fraud

Credit bureau scams may take the form of a particular type of phishing scam. Emails are sent out to allegedly inform customers of potential fraud on their credit reports. Customers are told to go to a website to file a fraud alert or to find out about the fraud. When customers enter their Social Security number or other card information, the information is recorded and stolen.


Credit card identity theft

Credit card identity theft can involve using someone else’s credit card numbers or account information. Some scams also involve using someone else’s social security number to open new credit cards.


Social Security theft and SSN fraud

Social security numbers are one of the most important pieces of identifying information. A social security number can be used to open financial accounts, secure credit, and gain employment. A SSN number can also be used to file a tax return or qualify for other government benefits. While social security theft can result in the use of the social security number to get credit and services, some scams involve obtaining SSN numbers and selling them to others. Social security numbers are sold in many cases on the black market or offered to undocumented immigrants who need a SSN number to get work.


Driver’s license ID fraud

Driver’s license ID fraud can involve using someone else’s drivers license to get services or obtain credit or goods. Scams can also involve creating false identifications (fake driver’s licenses).


Family and children identity theft

Identity theft does not just affect adults. When a child’s identity is stolen, often the parents and child do not discover the theft for many years because children do not routinely try to obtain credit.


Mail ID theft

Mail ID theft is a low-tech form of identity theft. Private identifying information is obtained by stealing people’s mail from the post office, the mail truck, the mail box, or the garbage can.


These and other identity theft scams can result in being charged with either a federal or a state crime. While some minor offenses like simply stealing a credit card will usually result only in state level charges, the federal government typically gets involved in large-scale identity theft scams. International identity theft schemes will typically also trigger involvement on the part of the federal government.


At Bukh & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys have provided legal representation both on the state and federal level. We have earned a reputation as top identity theft defense lawyers because we have represented some of the people responsible for massive identity theft schemes. We have provided legal representation to clients who ran and participated in vast networks of online identity thieves and who facilitated the theft and sale of thousands of credit card numbers. We represent hackers who obtain identities, and people who have found ways around security systems designed to prevent bank and financial fraud.


When you need an attorney who has helped some of the biggest identity thieves from all over the world, Bukh & Associates, PLLC is the firm to turn to.

Top Rated Criminal Lawyer

Arkady Bukh has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in NYC


Federal vs. New York Stolen ID Laws

In 1998, the United States Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This Act was intended to make it easier for federal authorities to take legal action in the case of identity theft. The Act amended Title 18 Section 29 of the United States Code to establish the federal offense of identity theft.

Title 18 Section 29 of the United States Code makes it illegal to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.”

Title 18 Section 29 also prohibits:


    • Knowingly producing an identification document or authentication feature without lawful authority.


    • Knowingly transferring a false ID or identification feature with knowledge that the ID is stolen or produced without lawful authority


    • Knowingly possessing with intent to unlawfully use or transfer five or more identification documents, fake IDs or authentication features.


    • Knowingly possessing an identification document (other than one lawfully issued to you), false ID, or authentication feature with the intention of defrauding the United States.


    • Knowingly producing, transferring or possessing an implement that produces identifying documents or identification features with the intention of creating fake IDs or fake authentications.


    • Knowingly possessing without authority an ID or authentication feature from the US or a sponsoring entity of an event with national significance.


The federal offense of identity theft is defined broadly to prevent virtually any unauthorized production, use or transfer of private identifying information.


In 2004, Congress decided to impose even harsher penalties for certain types of identity theft. The offense of aggravated identity theft was codified in Section 1028(A) to impose additional consequences for the use of someone’s identifying information to commit felony crimes including immigration violations; theft of Social Security benefits; or acts of domestic terrorism.

Defendants could face federal charges or charges in New York State. New York has established identity theft penalties in Article 190 of the New York Penal Code. New York law has different degrees of identity theft including:


    • Aggravated identity theft: Assuming the identity of another person knowingly and with intent to defraud if the person whose identity is assumed is in the armed forces and deployed. A defendant can be charged with this offense for obtaining money, property, goods, services, or using the credit of someone in the armed forces to obtain goods or cause losses of a total of $500 or more. (NY Penal Code Section 190.80-A)


    • Identity theft in the first degree: Money, goods, property or services are obtained or credit is used in someone else’s name and the total value of goods, property, services, or credit exceeds $2,000. A defendant may also be charged with this offense for causing someone else to experience $2,000 in losses or greater or for a second degree identity theft conviction with a prior criminal history of a similar offense in the past five years. (NY Penal Code Section 190.80).


    • Identity theft in the second degree: A defendant can be charged with this offense for identity theft that involves obtaining goods, services, or credit totaled at more than $500 or causing more than $500 in losses. If you would normally face third degree identity theft charges but have a similar prior conviction in the prior five years, you can also be charged with second degree identity theft. (NY Penal Code Section 190.79).


    • Identity theft in the third degree: A defendant faces this charge for identity theft that results in an aggregate loss or that allows a defendant to obtain goods, services, or credit totaling less than $500.00.



Defendants do not get to choose whether to be prosecuted for a crime by federal or state authorities. You have no control over how you are charged but you do have control over who represents you and argues for your legal interests. Bukh & Associates, PLLC has a long track record of providing skilled representation to defendants facing state and federal identity theft charges. If you need help with your criminal case and have been accused of any identity theft crimes, call today for help.

Penalties for ID Fraud


Penalties for ID fraud vary based on whether you are charged under New York law or federal law. There are many different things that go into determining what penalties you face. One issue is that defendants are frequently charged not just with identity theft crimes but also with computer crimes, unauthorized access, wire or postal fraud, and bank fraud. Each of these offenses can carry a potential penalty of decades of imprisonment.


Section 1028 outlines different potential penalties for a violation of various provisions of the federal identity theft laws. For example, punishment may include up to 15 years imprisonment for producing and transferring five or more false identifications or for many of the other actions listed in the statute. However, penalties could reach up to 30 years imprisonment for identity theft offenses if the offense is committed to facilitate acts of domestic or international terrorism.


In New York, first and second degree identity theft are both felonies, while third degree identity theft may be charged as a misdemeanor offense. The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor third degree identity theft offense is a year imprisonment. Felony offenses result in more than a year of incarceration.


The goal of your identity theft attorney will be to help you avoid being convicted of any crimes related to identity theft. When this is not possible, your attorney will work to negotiate a favorable plea deal or argue for a light sentence. Bukh & Associates, PLLC has helped some of the world’s biggest identity thieves to get very short sentences despite facing the potential for a statutory maximum penalty of decades of imprisonment. While every case is different, we bring extensive negotiation experience to the table when we represent you.

Defenses and ID Theft Criminal Lawyers At Bukh & Associates, PLLC, we will help you to explore defenses to identity theft and will work hard to introduce doubt about the prosecutor’s case. Unless the court is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of your guilt, you should not face penalties and should be found not guilty. Our attorneys can also assist in other important ways including raising questions about the aggregate value of the identity theft offense, and fighting related charges for computer crimes or fraud offenses.

Do not try to handle your case alone. Get help from experienced ID theft criminal lawyers at Bukh & Associates, PLLC today.

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