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Post date: April 3 2001

A.G. And State Police Obtain Conviction In Identity Theft Case

Attorney General Spitzer and New York State Police Superintendent James McMahon today announced that an Auburn resident has pleaded guilty in Onondaga County Court to charges relating to the theft and misuse of identification information of at least three people.

"Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing financial crimes in the nation," said Spitzer. "It is a crime that has far-reaching consequences for individual victims and businesses. My office is working with the State Police and other law enforcement agencies to combat and deter identity theft in all its forms."

Superintendent McMahon said: "Today's ever increasing access to information and computer technologies has brought not only better service to consumers but has also opened the door for those unscrupulous individuals who use these resources for criminal enterprise. This incident and the subsequent investigation and arrest illustrate the need for consumers to be vigilant in protecting their personal information. The New York State Police is committed in its resolve to be at the forefront of investigating, identifying and preventing this increasing phenomenon of identity theft."

Robert Reeves, 36, of West Genesee St., Auburn, pleaded guilty in Onondaga County Court before the Hon. William Walsh to two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a Class E Felony. These charges arise from a scheme carried out between January 1995 and March 2000 in which Reeves obtained the social security numbers of three individuals, one of whom was his own six-year-old child. Reeves used this stolen information to secure jobs, buy and register vehicles and open credit card and bank accounts.

As part of the identity theft scheme, Reeves opened a charge account in 1995 under one of the false names at a jewelry store in Johnson City, Broome County, and ran up more than $1,200 in purchases for which he never paid. He also wrote more than $23,000 in bad checks over a four-day period in late 1996 on a bank account that he opened under another of the false names.

By using the stolen identities, Reeves defrauded, among others, merchants, auto dealerships and the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Under a plea agreement, when Reeves is sentenced on May 30 he will receive 1 1/3 - 4 years in prison and be ordered to make restitution for the bad checks that he wrote and the merchandise that he purchased from the jewelry store.

Identity theft is fast becoming the most prevalent and costly financial crime in the nation. It is estimated that more than 40,000 people have their identity stolen each year, costing consumers and the financial industry billions of dollars.

As part of a comprehensive plan to protect New Yorkers' privacy, Attorney General Spitzer has proposed legislation that would establish strong criminal penalties for stealing another person's identity and allowing victims to sue for damages when their identity is stolen

The case began after a New York State Trooper stopped Reeves on an unrelated charge and discovered he was in possession of a fraudulent driver's license. Subsequently, the State Police Special Investigations Unit initiated what became a year-long probe into the multiple identities adopted by Reeves in several counties in Central New York. Hundreds of leads were followed to identify Reeves' varied fraudulent schemes. The case was then referred to the Attorney General's office for prosecution due to the numerous jurisdictions involved.

Attorney General Spitzer and Superintendent McMahon commended Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick for the assistance that he and his office gave in the investigation of this case.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Richard Ernst of the Criminal Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief William Comiskey.