U.S. v. Taylor: Aggravated Identity Theft, Making False Statements to Federal Financial Institution

Lloyd Taylor appealed a conviction on six counts of aggravated identity theft and seven counts of making false statements to a bank in a case arising from a tax evasion scheme in which the defendant used several false identities to open accounts at banks for obtaining cashier’s checks, which were then used to purchase gold. Upon discovery of the scheme, the bank made a report to federal authorities.

In the 1980s, Taylor began to use the identities of children who died before receiving Social Security numbers and who would have been about his age. Evidence presented against him at trial indicated that He obtained Florida driver’s licenses and voter registration cards using these stolen identities He then used the false documents to open bank and brokerage accounts, including checking accounts at Wachovia and Wells Fargo banks. In 2009, Taylor used one of his false identities to buy four cashier’s checks from Wachovia totaling $98,050, providing other false documents to the bank. The cashier’s checks were paid for using funds taken from the checking accounts he had opened at each of the banks using false identities. Taylor also used other schemes that involved fake passport applications and the creation of a church, which did not exist, but these matters were not part of this case.

Taylor was indicted by a grand jury for the violation of several statutes, including making false statements to a federally insured financial institution, obstruction of the administration of tax laws, tax evasion, and aggravated identity theft. He was convicted by a jury in June 2014.

In his appeal, Taylor only challenged the convictions for making false statements and for aggravated identity theft. The appeal claimed that the government had to prove that his conduct created a risk of loss to the banks in order to go forward, which the government had not done in its case. The issue before the court was whether the relevant provision required a risk of liability or loss for the bank, and there was none in this case because Taylor was making deposits and withdrawals of money from accounts he created. However, the language of the statute included to requirement of a risk of loss to the banks, but only that Taylor had knowingly made false statements in order to influence the action of the banks in regard to covered banking transactions when he used false documents to open accounts and buy cashier’s checks.

The Ninth Circuit examined the textual elements of the statute in question and upon review joined the Fourth Circuit in finding that the statute does not contain a risk-of-loss requirement and affirmed Taylor’s convictions.

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