Credit Card Fraud

New York state law recognizes two distinct fraud-related usages of a credit card. Under section 165.15(1) of the New York Penal Code, a person commits credit card fraud if they obtain or attempt to obtain goods or services on a credit basis using a credit card that they know to be stolen. Section 165.17 prohibits the unlawful use or display of a credit card that they know to have been revoked or canceled in order to obtain a property or service. The law does not even require the prosecution to prove that a defendant acquired the card illegally or even purchased a property or service.

Credit card fraud can take on many forms:

  • Stealing a credit card and using it to purchase merchandise
  • Stealing credit card data
  • Using credit card data to make unauthorized online purchases
  • Opening a new credit card account using someone else’s identifying details
  • Creating or using forged credit cards

Theft of services by means of a stolen credit card and unlawful use of a canceled credit card are class A misdemeanors in New York. Both crimes carry a penalty of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. Since they are often charged in conjunction with felony crimes such as identity theft, the total punishment can exceed 7 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

A conviction for credit card fraud results in fines and / or imprisonment, which can have a personal and financial impact on the defendant and their family. Anyone charged with using a stolen card or illegally displaying a canceled one should contact an experienced New York criminal defense attorney to discuss their options and mount a full defense.

On August 14, 2014 John L. Montanez, 28, a police officer with the New York City Police Department, pleaded guilty to credit card fraud and identity theft in Manhattan federal court. In 2011 he offered to provide an individual (who later cooperated with law enforcement) with a fraudulent driver’s license to replace the person’s revoked one. In return, the individual would purchase items for Montanez using fraudulently obtained or stolen credit cards and provide credit or debit card numbers that were also illegally acquired. Montanez pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft and faces a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of two years.

  • Access device fraud
  • Criminal possession of stolen property
  • Forgery
  • Grand larceny
  • Identity theft

Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to defraud are both viable defenses in credit card fraud proceedings.

18 U.S. Code § 1029 (fraud and related activity in connection with access devices) lays out the federal penalties for credit card fraud. If convicted, first-time offenders may spend up to 15 years in prison, and those with a prior conviction can face a 20-year prison sentence.

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