These days we use credit and debit cards for just about everything. That being the case, it’s not at all surprising that credit card fraud has become quite commonplace. Thieves use a variety of techniques to steal consumers’ credit card information, with some even offering stolen credit card information for sale on the darknet.
In Denver, a high-profile credit card and fuel theft scam recently culminated in the indictment of 10 people after a 1 ½-year investigation. The defendants now face multiple charges, including bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The defendants allegedly used pickup trucks outfitted with extra fuel tanks to purchase thousands of gallons of fuel with cloned credit cards. They stole the information for the cloned cards using skimming devices, and purchased stolen account information on the darknet. The fuel was allegedly delivered to truck lots throughout Colorado.
Denver-area police have also recently found credit card skimmers on the ATM machines of local convenience stores. These devices look like part of the machine, but are used by thieves to steal data off the card’s magnetic strip. Skimmers are also commonly attached to gas pumps. This suggests that credit card information theft is still active in the Denver metro area.
In Colorado, two main laws cover credit card fraud. They are centered around the actual theft of the information, and on the possession of fraudulent credit cards. These are distinct offenses, but credit card fraud cases often involve both charges. Both are typically charged as felony-level offenses and both tend to come with severe penalties.
Identity Theft and Related Offenses
Colorado revised statute § 18-5-901 covers identity theft and related offenses. Put simply, identity theft occurs when one person uses the identifying information of another for financial gain. This can include personal identity information such as social security numbers, or financial information such as credit card numbers.
Classification of Identity Theft
Under Colorado law, identity theft occurs when the defendant:
- Knowingly uses or possesses personal or financial identifying information or financial devices of another with the intent to use it for financial gain.
- Knowingly possesses such information without permission or legal authority to use in applying for or completing an application for a financial device or other form of credit extension.
- Knowingly uses such information without permission or authority to apply for a government-issued document.
- Uses such information to falsely make a written instrument or financial device with the intent to defraud.
Penalties for Identity Theft
In Colorado, identity theft is a Class 4 felony, and is punishable by a prison term of 2-6 years and $2,000-$500,000 in criminal fines per count. In credit card fraud rings such as those discussed above, defendants are often charged with multiple counts of identity theft, and further aggravating factors can lead to enhanced sentencing.
Criminal Possession of a Financial Device
Colorado revised statute § 18-5-903 covers criminal possession of a financial device. This crime essentially means that the defendant is in possession or control of someone else’s checkbook, credit card, or related device with the intent to use it for financial gain of some kind.
Elements of Criminal Possession of a Financial Device
The elements of the crime of criminal possession of a financial device are that the defendant knowingly possessed or controlled any financial transaction device(s) with the intent to defraud, or which he or she knew or should reasonably have known were fraudulent, stolen, lost, or delivered under mistake as to the identity or address of the account holder.
A financial device is defined as any instrument or device that can be used to obtain merchandise, credit, property, services, or anything else of value, or to make financial payments. This typically includes but is not limited to:
- A credit or debit card;
- A banking card or electronic transfer card;
- A check card;
- A check;
- A share draft;
- A money order;
- A negotiable order of withdrawal.
Penalties for Criminal Possession of a Financial Device
Criminal possession of one financial device is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possession of two or more is a Class 6 felony, and possession of four or more with at least two different account holders is a Class 5 felony.
Penalties for criminal possession of financial device range from six months to three years in prison, $5,000-$100,000 in criminal fines, and restitution.
If you are Facing Colorado Credit Card Fraud Charges
Bottom line: credit card fraud is a serious offense, and if convicted, defendants face lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and the long-term consequences of being a convicted felon.
If you are facing credit card fraud charges of any kind, you need knowledgeable legal representation. Be proactive as early in the process as possible by reaching out to an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney to learn what options may be available to you.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.