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Mystery man’s sentence for aggravated identity theft upheld

CARSON CITY — A man identified only as “John Doe” who illegally used another person’s information for decades has had his conviction and 78-month sentence for two counts of aggravated identity theft upheld by a federal appeals court.

A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Tuesday upheld an increase by U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Doe’s sentence, from a recommended range of 18 to 24 months.

The man, a Mexican national, never provided his name in the court proceedings and remains unidentified. He appealed his conviction arguing that the prosecution never proved that he knew that the identity he used belonged to a real person.

But the three-judge panel unanimously held that the man’s repeated submission of false information as part of successful applications to a government agency is sufficient to permit a jury to find that the man knew the information belonged to a real person.

The victim, identified only as “V”, was born in San Jose, California, and assigned a Social Security number sometime around 1977. No later than 1987, V’s uncle sold his birth certificate and provided his Social Security number to a man who was not identified at trial, according to court documents. In 1987, someone, most likely Doe, used the information to obtain a replacement Social Security card.

The information was used, most likely by Doe, for 27 years, the court noted in its opinion.

Doe used the information in 2002 to obtain a Nevada driver’s license and renewed it several times.

Doe’s use of V’s identity caused V numerous problems, including a suspended license for DUI on two occasions, tax refund checks going to someone else in Nevada using his Social Security number and the garnishment of his wages on three occasions to pay child support.

Doe was arrested in Reno on June 4, 2014 by Officer William Bergin, apparently a federal agent, after a fraud investigation by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His apprehension came after Doe submitted a federal employment eligibility form with the stolen information to obtain employment from Granite Construction Co. in Sparks. V had contacted Doe’s employer to tell them his identity was being used unlawfully.

At sentencing in Reno, Du commented on the decision to increase Doe’s prison time by noting that he didn’t lead a law-abiding life and committed offenses under the victim’s identity that caused “terrible disruptions to the victim and his family.”

“The defendant did not just steal the victim’s identity and use it for a few years, he stole and utilized the victim’s identity for about 27 years, which is more than half of the victim’s life,” Du said.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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