United States v. Savarese: Aggravated Identity Theft

In August of 2007, Dennis Savarese and James DeSimone were arrested near the Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa. When arrested, they had six stolen credit cards, each of which had a corresponding false identification with the shareholder’s name but with the picture of either Savarese or DeSimone. The pair’s arrest followed a long investigation that discovered a fraud operation involving over a dozen states and hundreds of stolen identities. Both were indicted with other alleged co-conspirators on charges arising from their participation in the credit card fraud scheme. After a six-day trial, Savarese was convicted; DeSimone chose to forego his Sixth Amendment rights and pled guilty. In the consolidated appeals actions, Savarese and DeSimone raise issues ranging from “the sufficiency of the underlying indictment to the applicability of multiple sentence enhancements. “

The fraud operation was simple in its concept and diligently executed by Dennis Savarese, Richard Regnetta, Arthur Rizzo, and the DeSimone family (James, Donald Sr., and Donald Jr.), co-defendants, all of whom, except for Savarese, lived in the greater Boston area. Between November of 2005 and August of 2007, Savarese went to some 150 different Bally Total Fitness and 24-Hour Fitness clubs across the U.S. He made the visits with the intent to steal credit cards from the lockers of gym members. Periodically, he collected and faxed a list containing the name of each stolen credit card to his co-conspirators, forged the cardholders’ signatures, and specified which of his cohorts would use the cards in the various phases of the scam.

Once the fraudsters possessed the list, one or more would hire Dana Ross Studios, a photographer based in Boston, to create corresponding fake identification that contained a name from one of the stolen cards, a photo of one of the co-conspirators, and other fictional biographical information. When sufficient cards and ID documents were collected, a group of the defendants would meet at racetracks and other gambling establishments chosen by Savarese throughout the U.S. They then used the fake documents to withdraw significant cash advance amounts totaling nearly $430,000 over the duration of the scheme,

A federal; grand jury in the District of Massachusetts returned a 28-count indictment against six of the defendants on charges of conspiring to commit aggravated identity theft, identity fraud, access device fraud, and sire fraud. Separately, Savarese was charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of identity fraud. DeSimone was charged with seven counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of device access fraud, pleading guilty to all but two counts of aggravated identity fraud. He was sentenced to 81 months in prison. Savarese was convicted on all but one count of identity fraud, and his motion for acquittal was denied by the court. He then appealed.

According to court documents, “Specifically, Savarese attacks his conviction, alleging three defects: that the indictment pursuant to which he was tried was fatally deficient; that there was insufficient evidence to support his lone conviction for identity fraud; and that the trial court abused its discretion on three evidentiary rulings. Savarese and DeSimone also challenge their respective sentences, arguing that the district court improperly applied several sentencing guideline enhancements.”the

After considering the issues and objections brought by Savarese, the appellate court affirmed Savarese’s conviction as imposed by the lower court, as well as the sentences established for Savarese and DeSimone.

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