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§ 943.201(2), Unauthorized Use of Personal Identifying Materials – Application to Closing of Fraudulently Opened Accounts: Liability Terminates

State v. George W. Lis, Sr., 2008 WI App 82
For Lis: Jefren E. Olsen, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue/Holding:

¶1        … The key question in this appeal is whether Lis’s crimes continued after the fraudulent accounts he opened were closed. We conclude they did not. ……

¶8        In this case, Lis’s offense continued into 2003 and 2004 only if he received a “thing of value or benefit” after the accounts were closed in 2000.  A “benefit” is “something that guards, aids, or promotes well-being: advantage.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 204 (unabr. 1993). Similarly, “valuable” means “possessing monetary value in use or exchange” or “characterized by usefulness, worth, or serviceableness.” Id. at 2530. In this case, so long as the Verizon account was open, Lis was using his son’s identity to obtain a “thing of value”—phone service. So long as the credit card accounts were open, Lis was using his son’s identifying information to obtain credit. Once those accounts were closed, however, the benefits to Lis—the phone and credit—ended.

¶15      As the example cited in Ramirez illustrates, an identity theft typically involves an initial theft of information, followed by continued use of the information in a variety of ways. It is these two actions—theft and unauthorized use of information—that Wis. Stat. § 943.201(2) was intended to criminalize. While the theft and unauthorized use will likely have ongoing consequences for the victim—and result in ongoing nonpayment of debts incurred—the crime itself consists of the initial theft and the use of the information, not those ongoing consequences.

 

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