Friday, March 14, 2014

Forging Another Person's Signature Violates Aggravated Identity Theft Statute

U.S. v. Porter, 2014 WL 868791 (3/6/14) (N.M.) (Published) - Under the aggravated identity theft statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), a means of identification includes a person's signature. So when Ms. Porter forged the signature of the union's president on a financial report she violated that statute. The definition of "means of identification" in § 1028(d)(7) includes "any name." For "any" to have any meaning it must refer to a signature. In the course of justifying its interpretation the 10th goes through a number of statutory construction rules: every word must have meaning; negative implication from the lack of the word "signature"; "including" means the list is not exhaustive; specific provisions govern over general ones.
The 10th uses Ms. Porter's own testimony to establish the mailing element for mail fraud. She testified the routine practice was to submit the reports by mail. Even if she passed the report on to someone else before it was mailed, it was enough to convict her that she caused the report to be mailed. There was sufficient evidence of wire fraud with respect to unauthorized purchases by Ms. Porter. While the government witness only testified specifically about some of the purchases being unauthorized she also testified she looked at all the purchases referred to in the indictment to determine if they were unauthorized and spoke generally of their unauthorized nature. And the witness's testimony indicated that she erred on the side of labeling a purchase authorized if there was an ambiguity. The jury could take note of the witness's conservative approach. Plus Ms. Porter used a debit card to purchase things when that was prohibited by the union and she falsified bank statements. Ms. Porter waived review of the sufficiency of the evidence for certain counts because she did not offer specific arguments or citations to the law or the record with respect to those counts.