Three recent arrests in Southern California highlight the different kinds of criminal charges people can face when they're involved in credit card fraud. Two of the people arrested were allegedly caught using a stolen credit card at a Target store. The third person was arrested after apparently renting a car for the first two to use in their crimes and never returning it to the rental agency.
Not all of them face the same criminal charges, but in general, here is what they may need to defend themselves against in court:
Identity theft. Using another person's credit card without their permission is one form of identity theft (likewise if you forge another person's name on a check or use other personal details such as their Social Security Number). Under California law, identity theft can be either a misdemeanor or felony; sometimes you may run afoul of federal identity theft law as well. In this case, police also found a notebook and various items of mail containing personal identifying information for over 20 people, on top of the use of the stolen credit card. According to Section 530.5 of the California Penal Code (which covers various identity theft laws), willfully obtaining another personal's identifying information and using it for various unlawful purposes is illegal.
Burglary or theft. In the case described here, two of the perpetrators allegedly stole the credit card from another person's vehicle, leaving them open to charges of burglary. In other situations, someone may steal the credit card from another person's pocket or purse, which is an act of theft.
Embezzlement. The third perpetrator who obtained the rental car but didn't return it was charged with embezzlement. Embezzlement generally deals with situations where people illegally appropriate an item that has been entrusted to them (this could be money, but it also be other possessions including vehicles).
Any of these charges could lead to serious penalties, including prison time for up to 3 years and fines up to $10,000.
How can we help?
If you or a loved one has been arrested in Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, Perris, Banning, Corona, Winchester or Riverside, you should contact our law office for a free consultation. Since 1999, we have successfully represented several hundred individuals who were facing various criminal charges. Our office is located near the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. We can help!