A U.S. district judge accepted guilty pleas earlier this year from a mother and son charged with numerous counts, including wire fraud and identity theft, in connection with alleged credit card fraud. The defendants were accused of taking over the credit card accounts of celebrities and government officials. United States v. Flores, et al., No. 6:13-cr-00225, indictment (M.D. Fla., Sep. 4, 2013). The son pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. The judge sentenced him to 36 months’ imprisonment. The mother pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents and was sentenced to three years’ probation.
A Secret Service investigator filed a complaint and affidavit with a magistrate, United States v. Flores, et al, 6:13-mj-01437, crim. complaint (M.D. Fla., Aug. 6, 2013), outlining the alleged scheme. The investigator received a report from American Express in May 2013 regarding a call from a person claiming to be the celebrity Kim Kardashian, who had the required personal information to access Kardashian’s account. The person changed the social security number on the account to the defendant son’s social security number, changed the primary address to the defendant’s address, and requested issuance of a new card to be sent to that address. The following day, another card was requested for Kardashian’s account, as well as one for the account in the name of her mother, Kris Jenner.
FBI agents went to the defendants’ home after the delivery of the credit cards and were granted entry by the defendants. While the defendants denied knowledge of any wrongdoing, agents noted a WiFi signal that had the same name as a known alias of the son. The defendants’ apartment manager told agents that the son had once left a photocopy of a social security card with a similar alias in the apartment complex copier, and that the defendants had made rent payments using checks from several accounts that had been closed due to suspicion of fraud.
A bank investigator found that an account in the son’s name had received more than $71,000 in wire transfers from Jenner’s American Express account. Agents eventually linked the son to similar changes to accounts held by the celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, as well as the directors of the U.S. Marshal Service and the FBI.
The indictment listed nine counts against both defendants and two against the mother. Both defendants were charged with four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, for two phone calls to American Express, a wire transfer, and online account access. One count alleged access device fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1029, for the alleged ongoing use of victims’ personal information. Five counts of aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, corresponded to five alleged victims. The mother was charged with two counts of false statements to federal agents, 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
In October 2013, the defendants pleaded guilty to some charged offenses. The son pleaded guilty to access device fraud and the count of aggravated identity theft directly linked in the indictment to the access device fraud charge. The mother pleaded guilty to falsely telling FBI agents that she did not know whether her son controlled certain bank accounts. The judge pronounced their sentences in January 2014.
Michael J. Brown, a board-certified criminal defense attorney, represents people in west Texas charged with alleged drug or white-collar offenses at the state and federal level. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157.
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Photo credit: By Toglenn (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.