Possessing a fake passport falls under the purview of New York’s forgery laws, which criminalize the possession of any forged instrument, or a written instrument that has been illegally created, completed, or altered. It is usually prosecuted as criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, which specifically targets documents issued or created by government agencies.
- State Penalties:
Under NY PL 170.25, a person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree when they possess any forged instrument (defined in section 170.10 as “written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality”) with full knowledge that it was forged and deliberate intent to defraud. It is a class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison. NY PL 170.00(7) decrees that a person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree when they knowingly possess a forged instrument such as a fake passport and intend to use it to defraud, deceive, or injure someone else. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
- When is the best time to act?:
Being charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument can result in serious penalties. A felony or misdemeanor conviction in New York state can have an adverse impact on a person’s job prospects as well as present obstructions when applying for professional licenses or certifications. Anyone arrested for this offense needs to speak with a New York criminal defense attorney right away.
- High profile/Government cases:
In November 2011 Brian Kim, 36, was arraigned for running a Ponzi scheme that bilked approximately $6 million from 45 victims. Kim and his hedge fund had been indicted the previous February on charges of Grand Larceny in the First and Second Degree, Scheme to Defraud, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and felony violations of the Martin Act. Prior to that, he had been indicted in 2009 for stealing $430,000 from the condominium complex where he lived, but before the trial he fled to Hong Kong using a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport, which resulted in additional charges of bail jumping and passport fraud. He was returned to New York in October 2011.
- Related Crimes:
Criminal possession of stolen property, forgery, grand larceny, identity theft, offering false instrument for filing
- Successful Defenses:
Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to knowingly commit an illegal act can all be presented as defenses.
- Difference between New York state and Federal statutes:
18 U.S. Code § 1028 covers fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information. Possession or transfer of a false identification document such as a passport is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in a federal prison, or a fine, or both.