Why federal court protected defendant’s identity? Identity Fraud? | United States v. John Doe

John Doe appeals his conviction of aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1028A, for knowingly possessing and using the name, birth date, and social security number of another person when he applied to renew a Nevada driver’s license and when he submitted a Form I-9 to his employer.

Doe appeal on two grounds. First, he says that the government failed to prove an element of the offense, specifically that he knew that the false identity he used belonged to a real person. Second, he challenges the reasonableness of his 78-months (6.5 years) sentence.

But why is this case John Doe? Aren’t criminal cases open to the public? It’s actually quite simple. After 27 years of using stolen identity, the Court could not figure out the defendant’s true identity. And he refused to tell the Court who he really was.

Here is what the Court said about his grounds of appeal. While direct evidence of knowledge is often presented in Sec. 1028A prosecutions, the element can also be proven by circumstantial evidence. Repeated and successful testing of the authenticity of a victim’s identifying information by submitting it to a government agency, bank, or other lender is circumstantial evidence that the jury may consider in deciding whether the defendant knew the identifying information belonged to a real person as opposed to a fictitious one.

Although the Federal Sentencing Guideline range was 18 to 24 months, the Court varied upward and imposed a sentence of 78 months. The court justified the upward adjustment because the defendant did not just live a normal, law-abiding life. He committed crimes under the victim’s identity and caused additional harm to the victim. The Appellate Court says that the 78-months sentence is not illogical, implausible, nor without support in the record.

I wonder if such an upward adjustment was applied because the defendant refused to tell the court his true identity. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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