US Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Identity Theft Law

US Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Identity Theft Law

The US Supreme Court limited when prosecutors can charge criminal defendants with identity theft alongside other crimes.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the court said a defendant “uses” another person’s means of identification “in relation to” a predicate offense when the use is at the crux of what makes the conduct criminal.

The case centered on David Dubin, who was charged with healthcare fraud for overbilling Medicaid for services his psychological examination company provided to a child at an emergency shelter in Texas.

Because Dubin used the patient’s name in submitting the fraudulent bill, he was also charged and convicted of aggravated identity theft, which added a mandatory two years onto his prison sentence.

But in delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Dubin’s use of the patient’s name was not at the crux of what made the underlying overbilling fraudulent. Dubin was convicted of aggravated identity theft in addition to health-care fraud for overbilling Medicaid for psychological testing, which was the predicate offense.

“The crux of the healthcare fraud was a misrepresentation about the qualifications of petitioner’s employee,” she said. “The patient’s name was an ancillary feature of the billing method employed.”

‘Unserious Position’

The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act makes it a crime to knowingly transfer, possess, or use without lawful authority a means of identifying another person during and in relation to certain felony crimes like fraud.

Dubin argued he had the authority to use a patient’s name to bill Medicaid and never stole or made any misrepresentations about the patient’s identity. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld his conviction. Siding with the government, the appeals court said use of another person’s identity is without lawful authority anytime it is employed during conduct that is contrary to the law.

You can read the full article at Bloomberg Law.