Identity theft crimes are on the rise in the Panama City area. State and federal agencies regularly investigate and identify suspects who have stolen another person's identity and are using it for financial gain. Recently, Michael Joseph, a prisoner at Apalachee Correctional Institute near Sneads (Jackson County) pled guilty in Federal Court to 41 counts ranging from theft of government money to mail fraud to filing false tax returns and conspiracy. Joseph submitted tax returns using the names and identities of other inmates while incarcerated at Apalachee C.I. According to documents filed with the by the government, Joseph made over $179,000 in false claims and was paid a total of $51,298. Authorities stated that over $17,000 was seized from Joseph's bank account and $11,000 was found buried in his mother's back yard. The State of Florida has yet to announce whether Joseph will face charges in State Court in addition to the federal charges he has already pled to.
This is an unusual version of a common crime – taking on the identity of another to get some type of financial gain. Many of these crimes are committed through the use of the internet or mail, when this is the case the federal government gets involved. Bank fraud and defrauding the government are both strictly enforced and heavily punished. Those who are accused of committing any crime involving identity theft are facing serious repercussions.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 817.568, if a person is found guilty of either using another's identity fraudulently, or intending to do so, the charge is a 3rd degree felony. In cases where the financial gain was $5,000 or more, or when the accused individual has used 10 or more identities, the charge will be a 2nd degree felony, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison. If the accused used 20 or more identities, a conviction will lead to a mandatory 10 years imprisonment. The penalty for using a deceased person's identity includes a minimum sentence of 10 years as well.
If you are subject to a criminal investigation or have been charged with identity theft, contact a Panama City criminal attorney at Shepard Law as soon as possible. Early involvement by an experienced criminal lawyer could be crucial to the final outcome of the case.
Shepard Law is a result-oriented law firm that defends the accused against accusations involving identity theft. Mr. Shepard is a former prosecutor with experience and knowledge in both state and federal courts who has both prosecuted and defended identity theft cases.