Monty Stansell of Douglas County has been sentenced this past week to almost two years in federal prison for stealing Social Security benefits that belonged to his deceased mother.
Stansell's mother passed in 2008, and according to reports, Stansell continued to receive her benefits for the following six years without reporting to the Social Security Administration that she had died. Stansell was accused of stealing over $90,000 and has been ordered to pay $93,872 in restitution following his sentencing. Stansell never took his mother's name off of a joint SunTrust bank account and continued to use her benefits for his own personal expenses.
Even though this is a federal case (which means that Stansell has been arrested and convicted at the federal level instead of the state level), as a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I would like to focus today's post on the Georgia offense of identity fraud so we can look at what Georgia Law specifies.
Identity Fraud in Georgia
In O.C.G.A. §16-9-121, the Georgia Code defines identity fraud in Georgia as:
A person commits the offense of identity fraud when he or she willfully and fraudulently:
- Without authorization or consent, uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use identifying information concerning a person;
- Uses identifying information of an individual under 18 years old over whom he or she exercises custodial authority;
- Uses or possess with intent to fraudulently use identifying information concerning a deceased individual;
- Creates, uses, or possess with intent to fraudulently use any counterfeit or fictitious information concerning a fictitious person with intent to use such counterfeit or fictitious identification information for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a crime or fraud on another person; or
- Without authorization or consent, creates, uses, or possesses with intent to fraudulently use any counterfeit or fictitious identifying information concerning a real person with intent to use such counterfeit or fictitious information for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a crime or fraud on another person.
Identity fraud is considered a felony in Georgia as are most Fraud Crimes in Georgia. Our state looks very harshly on fraudulent transactions and offenses. We have some of the highest rates of fraud in the country. If the prosecution successfully proves an accused person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then there will be a conviction.
If convicted of identity fraud, then the penalty can include up to ten years in prison and a fine up to $100,000. However, there are Georgia Criminal Defenses that apply to a wrongful accusation. If the alleged victim consented to the transaction or if the information was obtained lawfully, then there is a wrongful accusation.