The Death of Identity Fraud in Utah?

On December 28, 2012 the Utah Supreme Court handed down its opinion in State of Utah vs. Manuel Hurtado Rincon which raises the question of whether identity fraud in Utah is a viable property crime any longer.

In that case the defendant made up a social security number so that he could get a job.  The defendant did not steal the number from anyone.  He did not hack a computer, take a wallet or anything like that.  He simply made up the number and started using it.  In fact, he used it for a number of years until finally it caught up with him when a lady living in Arizona who lost her job could not qualify for unemployment benefits because she was apparently working in Ogden, Utah.  That’s right, the number Rincon made up actually turned out to belong to someone.

Rincon was charged with identity fraud, went to trial, and was convicted even though his defense lawyer ably argued that Rincon could not be convicted of identity fraud because he just made up the social security number and did not “obtain” it from anybody.  The trial court rejected the argument, but the Utah Supreme agreed and reversed Rincon’s conviction and sentence.

The Supremes ruled that because the identity fraud statute requires that the defendant “obtain” personal identifying information that Rincon’s conviction had to be reversed because “obtain” requires the defendant to have actually planned some effort to get the information from an external source.  Thus, merely thinking up a social security number does not qualify as obtaining the information under the statute.

This decision really questions the entire crime of identity fraud and it will probably force the Legislature to revamp the law so that defendants cannot claim that they made up the social security number.

If you have been charged with identity fraud in Utah, our criminal defense lawyers are some of the best in the business.  We fight hard for our clients and the Rincon decision we have even more ammunition to protect our clients, so call us at 801.618.1334 so we can start protecting you.

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