Identity theft is a crime that is affecting more and more individuals. Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Federal law provides enhanced sentences for individuals who commit aggravated identify theft, which usually occurs when someone uses another person’s identity to commit a felony offense.
To help combat the problem, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee has created an Identity Fraud Task Force composed of representatives from federal, state, and local agencies such as the ICE, the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the TBI, and local district attorney generals, sheriff’s offices and police departments. The Task Force meets on a regular basis to share information, coordinate investigations, and develop prosecutions. Some of the cases involving identity theft prosecuted by our office include:
- Michelle Lee Stiles, a former Knox County Deputy Sheriff, was convicted of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Stiles obtained the driver’s license of the victim of a theft while responding to the victim’s theft compliant. Stiles kept the license and used it to open two credit card accounts to finance purchases at two local retail establishments, Big Lots! and Knoxville Wholesale Furniture. She is pending sentencing.
- Susan Welch Cooper, of Knoxville, was convicted of aggravated identity theft for her role in an elaborate scheme to steal a person’s identity. Cooper fraudulently opened and controlled 11 credit cards opened in the name of Linda Jennings Carter. Cooper had obtained Carter’s personal identifying information when Carter purchased Cooper’s house. From December 2006 through September 2007, Cooper made over 400 charges to the various cards totaling $95,893.52. She received a two-year prison sentence.
For more information on identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself against this crime visit http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.