Earlier this week the US Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal case concerning an ‘illegal’ immigrant who allegedly used a social security number belonging to another person. This case concerning a charge of aggravated identity theft will be heard sometime in 2009. It is significant because federal prosecutors have used this identity theft charge against many of the 300 immigrants caught up in the raids at the meat packing plant in Postville.
This charge which is based from a new law adopted in 2004 originally was intended to combat identity theft but has now found new purpose in the federal government’s attempts to ‘combat illegal immigration’. The punishment for this crime is much greater than a simple violation of immigration code which has made it a popular ‘tool’ for prosecutors who appear anxious to throw the kitchen sink at these people in the hope that it sticks.
What’s troublesome to me is that the federal government has no qualms about accepting social security, medicare, and federal employment tax withholdings from these individuals paychecks. Presumably this person was paying the feds using this invalid number and name, the Internal Revenue Service ans Social Security Administration knew that the names and numbers didn’t match but apparently they don’t care as long as your PAYING THEM MONEY. My question is, wouldn’t the feds acceptance of this money from these people’s paychecks make them an accessories to a crime? I mean if this really is aggravated identity theft then couldn’t it be construed as the equivalent to receiving knowingly stolen property on the part of the IRS and SSA?
Anyways, to the best of my knowledge a number in and of itself doesn’t identify a person, someone would need the name and the number used in conjunction. And to the best of my knowledge this individual just used a random number without having the corresponding name. Not sure how much theft could be done with just a number. Also, what about those individuals that used numbers that were invalid such as those that started with the number nine? For example, 999-99-9999, if someone used that number could they be charged with identity theft since there’s no individual with that number. Are prosecutors checking each of these social security numbers to see if there is a real person currently using that number?
In summation, the case appears to have merit and hopefully the Supreme Court will throw out this conviction. If the government wants strong convictions with long sentences then they should instead make an immigration violation something greater than a civil violation.