SCOTUS ruling on identity theft could affect arrested Weld County workers

A U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down today may have implications for a contentious identity crime prosecution that resulted in 100 charges of criminal impersonation by undocumented workers and more than 5,000 personal income tax records seized in Weld County.

The ACLU of Colorado charged that the raid conducted by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and Sheriff John Cooke, dubbed Operation Numbers Game, was overly broad and violated the privacy of the clients of Amalia’s Translation and Tax Service. That case is now before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Our Washington Independent colleague Daphne Eviatar writes on the Supreme Court’s ruling in a separate matter — which likely and considerably increased the Weld County DA’s burden of proof:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that to convict an individual for identity theft, the defendant must have known that he was using the identity of an existing person.

The case arose, as such cases usually do, in the context of an undocumented worker, Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, who submitted false documents to an employer to get a job. After his employer reported him, the government discovered that the Social Security number was real, only it was somebody else’s. The government charged Flores-Figheroa with entering the United States illegally, misusing immigration documents and identity theft.

He was convicted, and Flores-Figheroa appealed the identity theft charge, claiming he didn’t know the number he had belonged to anybody at all. The court upheld the conviction anyway.

Today, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that law, which requires that the offender “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person” means exactly that — that the offender must know that he did it.

Read the full opinion at SCOTUS blog.

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Wendy Norris

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