The San Carlos Best Buy parking lot was the scene at which 4 people were recently arrested for creating fraudulent gift cards and credit cards, and using them to buy approximately $125,000 worth of merchandise, including iPhones, clothing, and MacBook Pros. San Mateo Sheriff’s County deputies stopped the 4 persons (aged 20, 23, 26, and 29) after local law enforcement agents were alerted to their activities by a 911 call. They have been charged with several different crimes, such as identity theft, the use of stolen credit cards, commercial burglary, and possession of some access cards with the intent to defraud, and conspiracy.
Concentrating on the first charge, that of identity theft, California law is quite strict on these matters, especially since there are more reported instances of this crime in this state than any other. California Penal Code 530.5 addresses identity theft laws. Basically, any time that one person takes another person’s personal information for the purposes of using it to buy goods or services, they have engaged in identity theft.
Identity theft is a California ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors determine for themselves, dependent upon the specific facts of the case, whether they will treat the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor identity theft offense, you could spend up to 1 year in county jail and pay a $1,000 fine. However, if convicted of a felony count of identity theft, you could face up to 3 years in county jail and be subject to $10,000 in fines.