New York Credit Card Fraud & Crimes

New York Credit Card Fraud & Crimes

When a person learns they are being charged with or accused of credit card fraud, a criminal attorney knowledgeable about and experienced with the New York Penal Law will have many questions to best implement the strongest defense on your behalf. First, there is no crime of or codified as “Credit Card Fraud” in New York. Instead, an arrest or indictment involving these activities can involve the entire spectrum of White Collar crimes. For example, is the debit card in question stolen even if you did not steal it? Is it completely or partially fake or altered? For that matter, is there a difference in the eyes of the law of “how fake” the “plastic” may be? Who is the victim of and does the misuse of the debit or credit card directly relate to a theft or larceny? Are the crimes you may face misdemeanors or felonies? Simply, as “simple” as this area of law can ever be, in the penalties and punishment for these crimes are as severe and distinct as the multiple offenses you may face. Whether you are the subject of a long-term investigation, the NYPD stops you and recovers these items from your person or vehicle, or you are caught in the midst of a transaction or tracked online, the District Attorney will have the means to potentially charge you with Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Forgery, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Identity Theft.

Potential Felony Crimes and Legal Definitions

As briefly touched on above, there are many offenses that a Grand Jury could charge on an indictment. Some of the most common are as follows:

Fourth Degree Grand Larceny: NY PL 155.30(4)

If you steal a credit or debit card it is an “automatic” class “E” felony. This is true even if you wrongfully and knowingly take a wallet that has these items in it, but you were unaware. Each card constitutes a separate charge.

Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property: NY PL 165.45(2)

If Grand Larceny is the taking, this crime is the knowing unlawful possession of the same. Also a class “E” felony, every one in your possession is a distinct criminal offense.

Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument: NY PL 170.25

Knowingly possessing with an intent to defraud an otherwise legitimate debit card that is altered or completely fake is a violation of this section of the Penal Law. A class “D” felony, every one you possess constitutes a separate crime.

Second Degree Forgery: NY PL 170.10

Even if you are not in possession of contraband, if you make the fake or alter a real credit card and have the intent to defraud, you will run afoul of this class “D” felony. Keep in mind, signing a receipt with a pen or electronically may be a Forgery as well.

First and Second Degree Identity Theft: NY PL 190.80 and 190.79

Although there are different subsections that may be applicable, if you use the personal identifying information of another person, such as an account number, and purport to be that person without his or her authority, then you have committed some form of Identity Theft. If you do so while furthering a class “E” or “D” felony, such as those above crimes, then the Identity Theft is bumped up to the same degree offense.

Penalties and Punishment

As a blanket rule of law, any class “E” felony does not mandate incarceration for those with clean criminal records but that does not prevent a prosecutor from asking for or a judge from sentencing you to jail or prison. In fact, when the gavel comes down, you can find yourself sent “upstate” for a term of one and a third to four years. Class “D” felonies, although adhering to the same no-jail minimum for first time offenders and non-predicate felons, are more serious. Upon conviction the punishment is imprisonment up to two and one third to seven years. Keep in mind that, as noted above, each stolen or forged item is a separate and distinct crime and a court can sentence you accordingly.

In the event you are not jailed, there are other options upon a plea or conviction. A judge has the authority to sentence you to probation, levy fines, require treatment if necessary, mandate community service or simply give you a conditional discharge. Obviously, having the best criminal lawyer to secure such a resolution or something even more favorable that is misdemeanor, violation, or dismissal, is critical.

Examples and Hypotheticals

Because these frauds span a vast swath of different conduct, it’s hard to point to any one criminal act or crime that is a typical violation of the code. However, the following are two common scenarios.

Possessing a Bogus Credit Card

If you have what purports to be a legitimate American Express or Visa, or it is a real and genuine debit card that has been only partially altered and contains a different account embedded within the chip or even name on the front, mere possession without use is likely felonious. While prosecutors would still have to prove the intent to defraud and your knowing possession, it is likely the NYPD or other police agency would arrest you for Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Penal Law 170.25, for the fictitious or altered “plastic.” This class “D” felony is just one potential crime of many but often the top count charged barring evidence of some greater ongoing or larcenous scheme.

Stealing or Using a Stolen Credit Card

In the event you knowingly possessed and used a real debit or credit card that you knew was stolen, or you actually stole the same, then you would face the felony offenses of Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Penal Law 165.45(2), or Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, Penal Law 155.30(4), respectively. In addition to these class “E” felonies, and almost by default, using the same on Amazon or at Duane Reade would provide prosecutors the means to charge you with some subsection of the class “D” or “E” felonies of First or Second Degree Identity Theft, Penal Law 190.80 and 190.79, respectively. Upon signing a fake signature pretending to be the authorized user you would likely violate Second Degree Forgery, Penal Law 170.10, and possibly another count of First Degree Identity Theft.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

By no means is the above list of crimes the only offenses that a District Attorney may accuse you of violating. While the courts, police departments, banks, credit card companies and private businesses are routinely overwhelmed with claims from victims that they have been wronged by a stranger who accessed their financial information or the card itself, do not think that because of the abundance of this type of crime law enforcement will not investigate and arrest an alleged perpetrator. Whether the police stop your car and you have grounds to challenge an unlawful search, you can argue that you did not physically possess the contraband in question, or you can attack the nexus between you and the stolen or fraudulently created cards or transactions when they were used, a failure to do so or defend yourself in a different manner will have permanent and devastating consequences.

If you have been accused of or arrested for any of the White Collar crimes referenced above, be smart and protect yourself both inside and outside the courtroom. Review your complaint or indictment, read up on the law and consult with the right legal counsel who can bring you the closure and disposition you need to best keep your life from derailing.

Call the White Collar Defense Attorneys and Former Manhattan Prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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