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Alleged identity theft ring busted; hundreds of serious charges

There are some types of charges that South Carolina prosecutors will pursue more zealously than others. Crimes with any kind of social stigma attached or which otherwise generate attention-grabbing headlines seem to warrant large-scale operations and far-ranging charges. Internet crimes, for example, are among the latest buzzwords in law enforcement, and defendants accused of identity theft, fraud and other computer crimes may find themselves facing an onslaught of fevered accusations.

Authorities in one neighboring state recently arrested 14 individuals after a months-long investigation, an investigation characterized by the county sheriff as "just following little tid-bits of a trail" comprised of calls to police regarding allegedly compromised identities. Those little tid-bits have led to hundreds of criminal charges filed, in one individual defendant's case no fewer than 199 separate counts of identity theft. Some of the defendants allegedly stole the identities of seniors for whom they worked as caretakers.

Officials are likely feeling the public pressure in this particular part of Georgia, where they claim that identity theft claims rose 44% from 2011 to 2012. The Tift County Sheriff described this recent bust as an attempt to "send a message that we're not going to tolerate it" and alluded to more arrests in the works.

Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials will often push for the most severe charges and punishments at their disposal in high-profile cases like this. Defendants may feel overwhelmed by the scope of what they are suddenly facing; they may feel helpless and alone, and may feel pressured to give up their right to defend themselves against the charges.

In fact, a legal defense professional can be a strong asset to defendants in identity theft and other computer crime cases, in which expert testimony regarding high-tech forensic methods can potentially obtain a reduction of charges or even charges being thrown out entirely. South Carolina residents should not let themselves be swept up in wide-ranging "busts" by overzealous authorities - they should understand and exercise their rights under the law.

Source: WALB 10 News, "Tift ID theft ring busted," Tara Herrschaft, May 13, 2013

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