Aggravated Identity Theft

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 2:42 pm
By: News On 6

The feds are cracking down on identity theft. Even though it's the fastest growing crime in our country, people convicted of it, rarely spend any time behind bars. A new federal statute now makes prison time mandatory.

Bryon Brown is the first person in this half of Oklahoma to be prosecuted under the new law called aggravated identity theft. He was first charged with using a Texas man's identity to buy two vehicles from Danny Beck Chevrolet and while he was on bond for that charge, investigators say he used a Tulsa police officer's identity to buy a truck in Pryor.

The aggravated identity statute applies to people who commit felonies with someone else's identity like opening checking accounts, getting credit cards or loans and making purchases.

If Brown is convicted for aggravated identity theft, he must spend two years in prison on that count alone and not a day less.

Det Rick Koch, Fraud Squad: "It's non probatable, no deferred sentence or suspended sentence and it's consecutive. It cannot run concurrent with any other sentence the defendant may be looking at."

Only the most serious cases will be prosecuted under the law. The rest will go to state court, where jail time is iffy.

The victims of this man, Edward Raifsnider would likely argue he fits the category. He had more than 40 warrants out for him in 20 different states, accused of identity theft and scamming people out of millions.

Or, this woman, Ruby Shelton, police say she's been stealing identities since 19-78 from the nursing homes and doctor's offices where she worked.

Having your identity stolen is just the beginning.

Det Rick Koch: "That's where the nightmare begins, because it can take months or even years to resolve those credit issues."

The new statute went into effect in July. The idea is make criminals re-think their old ideas that they won’t go to prison for a non-violent offense.