Niesha Taylor (27), a resident of San Francisco, has been sentenced to 9 months of jail time for pretending to be a victim of the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion. According to the prosecuting attorney, Niesha was trying to receive free benefits which were intended for victims of the explosion.
She was also placed on probation for three years by the ruling of Judge Lisa Novak at San Mateo County Superior court. Taylor was charged with forging documents, identity theft and second-degree burglary. According to a statement issued by the district attorney, Steve Wagstaffe, Niesha claimed to not have known that the centre for assistance that she and her boyfriend, Deonte Bennett (26), visited was for victims of the explosion.
Both Taylor and Bennett gave the police false information regarding their backgrounds, claiming to have rented a room from one of the home owners whose house had been burned down. They then told officials that they had lost all their belongings and required new identification and other services that are offered to victims.
Taylor and Bennett were two of the seven people who were arrested on the suspicion of fraud after a disastrous explosion killed 8 people and destroyed 38 homes. The case against Bennett is still pending as he has also been named in an anti-gang injunction in San Francisco and is not allowed to leave the Oakdale public housing development he is staying in.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when a person steals another person’s identity, i.e. pretends to be someone else in order to access funds, benefits or resources. In short, it encompasses all crimes in which a person obtains another person’s personal data and uses it in a fraudulent or deceptive manner. Personal data could refer to your social security number, credit card number, bank account number, etc.
According to Title 18 of the United States code, 1028 (a) (7), identity theft is punishable with up to 15 years of jail time, a fine and the forfeit of any property that was used to commit the offense. In some cases, all three of these measures are taken against the criminals involved.