Aggravated Identity Theft - 18 U.S.C. § 1028A

Identity theft continues to be a significant issue in our everyday lives. In 2020 alone, the Federal Trade Commission received nearly 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports –– an increase of 45% from 3.3 million in 2019. Of those 2020 complaints, there was a 113% increase in identity theft complaints (1.4 million) (source: Insurance Information Institute). To crack down on these offenses, Congress has made significant efforts toward strengthening the law by enacting stricter criminal penalties.

In 1998, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998. This statute was unique because it specifically designated identity theft as a Federal crime, unlike before, where identity theft was charged under the offense of "false impersonation." The bill made it a crime to use another's identifying information in connection with any Federal or any state or local felony. Additionally, the statute enhanced penalties for identity theft, making the offense punishable by up to 15 years in Federal prison and hefty fines.

In 2004, Congress passed a second bill, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which established the crime of Aggravated Identity Theft. Similar to the 1998 statute, this provision bars someone from using another's identifying information in connection with a specific Federal felony or terrorism offense. 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(c) outlines the Federal felonies, but here are a few:

  • Sections 641 (theft of public money, property, or rewards) and 656 (theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by bank officer or employee)
  • Section 911 (false personation of citizenship)
  • Section 922(a)(6) (false statements in connection with the acquisition of a firearm)
  • Section 243 or 266 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1321 et seq.) (relating to willfully failing to leave the United States after deportation and creating a counterfeit alien registration card)

Aggravated Identity Theft is a predicate offense, meaning it is a part of a more serious crime. For example, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed a series of measures aimed at helping small businesses get back on their feet. One such program is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provided companies with monies for employees, rent, and other expenses. Unfortunately, as time went on, the Federal government uncovered significant fraud and abuse, prompting the Department of Justice to crack down on pandemic relief fraud. To date, Federal prosecutors have brought charges against hundreds of individuals across the country who sought PPP loans wrongfully. As a result, it is not uncommon to see Federal prosecutors bring an Aggravated Identity Theft charge alongside a wire and bank fraud charge.

Aggravated Identity Theft Penalties

Aggravated Identity Theft is also unique in that it comes with a mandatory two-year sentence to run consecutively with the baseline offense. However, if the crime involves terrorism, the penalty rises to a mandatory three-year sentence.

Importance of Legal Counsel

If you or someone you know faces a Federal Aggravated Identity Theft charge, do not delay hiring experienced defense counsel. The earlier an attorney gets involved, the better one’s defense. Not only can legal counsel begin building the case, but they can walk you through any issues that might arise in your case. Most importantly, an attorney can work to ensure your rights are protected. With so much on the line––your reputation, livelihood, and personal relationships––having an attorney fighting on your behalf can give you peace of mind knowing that someone has your back.

Peter Katz is an experienced former State and Federal prosecutor who has prosecuted many white-collar cases during his two-decade career. Peter is ready to bring that experience to your case and work tirelessly on your behalf to protect you and your rights. Call the Law Offices of Peter Katz at (609) 734-4380 or online to begin preparing your defense today.