Everything You Need to Know about Illinois Identity Theft Charges
Identity theft is an unfortunate reality of modern-day society. It seems these days everyone has either been affected by this crime or knows someone who has at this point, and Illinoisans are no exception.
A Glendale Heights woman was recently accused of stealing the identities of more than two dozen victims to open fraudulent bank accounts, which she allegedly used to finance vacations and school tuition for her children.
She faces 52 counts of aggravated identity theft and 12 counts of identity theft, among other charges. If convicted, she faces a potentially decades-long sentence.
In another recent incident, a Cook County man was arrested and charged with identity theft after allegedly attempting to purchase a vehicle with fraudulent identification.
Regardless of the scope and nature of the alleged offense, identity theft is always a felony and is met with severe criminal consequences. Below we take a look at what constitutes identity theft in Illinois, and the penalties associated with a conviction.
Illinois Identity Theft Basics
Identity theft most often precedes financial crimes such as credit card fraud, and in these situations, offenders usually face charges for both identity theft plus the financial crime(s) in question. Illinois statutes specify that the following acts constitute identity theft:
- Use any identifying information or documents of another person to fraudulently acquire goods, credit, services or anything else of value
- Use any identifying information or documents of another person with the intent to commit a felony not specified above
- Obtain, record, sell, possess, transfer, purchase or manufacture any personal identification information or documents knowing that the information or document was stolen or produced without authority
- Use, transfer or possess any document-making materials to produce false identifications or false documents with the knowledge that they will be used by you or someone else to commit a felony
- Use someone’s personal identifying information or documents to portray yourself as that person, or to gain access to other personal identification information or documents without that person’s consent
- Use another party’s personal information or documents to gain access to their communications or records of transactions without their consent
- When applying for a building permit, provide the license number of a roofing or fire sprinkler contractor that you don’t intend to hire to perform the work in question.
In a nutshell, use the information or identification documents of another person with the intention of committing theft, fraud or another felony-level offense, risk being charged with identity theft in Illinois.
Illinois Identity Theft Sentencing and Penalties
Under Illinois law, all forms of identity theft are considered to be felonies. As with any theft crime, sentencing and penalties depend on the amount of money or value stolen. If convicted of identity theft, you can expect the following:
- Below $300: Class 4 felony punishable by 1-4 years of imprisonment
- $300-$2,000: Class 3 felony punishable by 2-5 years of imprisonment
- $2,000-$10,000: Class 2 felony punishable by 3-7 years of imprisonment
- $10,000-$100,000: Class 1 felony punishable by 4-15 years of imprisonment
- $100,000+: Class X felony punishable by 6-30 years of imprisonment
Many identity theft cases, like the one in Glendale Heights, involve multiple victims. When they do, the defendant usually faces separate counts of identity theft for each alleged victim.
Further, circumstances surrounding the crime are evaluated for aggravating factors that could subject the defendant to enhanced sentencing. If you were involved in identity theft crimes that involved any of the following the court will likely favor enhancement:
- The victim involved is 60 years of age or older
- The victim is mentally or physically disabled
- The identity theft was committed in furtherance of the activities of an organized gang
- You have prior identity theft convictions on your criminal record
In addition to these already-severe criminal consequences, civil damages may be sought by the victim(s), or the court may order payment of restitution to the victim(s).
Fighting Back Against Identity Theft Charges
Despite the seriousness of your identity theft charges, all is not lost. There are a number of defense strategies available, which could potentially get your charges dropped or reduced, or win you an acquittal at trial.
For example, your attorney may be able to argue that the prosecution’s evidence against you doesn’t sufficiently prove your guilt, or that you did not have specific intent to use identifying information for a criminal purpose.
Reach out to an experienced Chicago attorney with expertise in fraud defense to evaluate the specifics surrounding your case, and to craft the best possible defense strategy.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.