In late July, a federal court in Miami handed a 54-month prison sentence to a 19-year old man convicted of defrauding individuals, banks, credit card companies, and the state unemployment insurance fund. According to court records, he used a complex system of identity theft to pull off various online scams that totaled more than $1 million in losses. The stolen identities came from a database kept by the Florida Department of Employment. Investigators obtained the IP address used during the data heist and used this information to carry out the arrest.
According to federal prosecutors, the youth hacked into the aforementioned database over 11 months in 2015 and 2016. Armed with unemployment insurance information, he then purchased equipment and materials that allowed him to make credit and debit cards in the name of individuals whose personal records he stole.
In addition to the prison sentence, he was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. This legal action was part of the Florida Identity Theft Refund Fraud Strike Force effort, which has been targeting cases related to tax refund scams as well as identity fraud and misuse of unemployment insurance payments.
Fraud crimes handled by federal prosecutors are often considered to be sophisticated and difficult to defend, but this is not always the case. Charges related to internet crime, money laundering and embezzlement can be defended against in a variety of ways. Law enforcement agents often make mistakes, become overzealous or even forget about ethics, and these can be used by criminal defense attorneys when seeking a reduction in penalties or even a dismissal of the charges.