Under New York law, an access device is a card, plate, account number, or any other means of account access that can be used to obtain money, goods, or services or initiate a transfer of funds. A common example is using someone else’s identification to fraudulently obtain a credit card.

State Penalties

New York state law recognizes two degrees of Criminal Use of an Access Device. A person is guilty of Criminal Use of an Access Device in the Second Degree if they knowingly use an access device without the owner’s consent to unlawfully obtain telecommunications services. It is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in prison and / or a fine of up to $1,000. Criminal Use of an Access Device in the First Degree applies when a person knowingly uses an access device without the owner’s consent to unlawfully obtain telecommunications services with a value in excess of one thousand dollars. It is a Class E felony that can result in up to 4 years in prison and / or a $5,000 fine.

Difference between New York State and Federal statutes:

Access device fraud is also a federal crime. The various types of fraud include producing, using, and trafficking in counterfeit access devices and using one or more unauthorized access devices during any one-year period to obtain goods worth $1,000 or more. If convicted, first-time offenders may spend up to 15 years in prison, and those with a prior conviction can face a 20-year prison sentence.

Related Crimes:

Criminal Conspiracy, False Impersonation, Forgery, Identity Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, Unlawful Taking

When is the best time to act?:

A conviction for access device fraud can entail years of prison time, especially for a repeat offender, so anyone charged with this crime should consult a criminal defense attorney immediately. Even a first-time offender will have difficulties afterward with a criminal record, so getting competent legal advice is paramount.

Successful Defenses:

If the defendant can show that they had reasonable grounds to believe that they were authorized to use the device in question, they have a viable defense. Other defenses include mental illness and proof that others could have committed the crime.

High profile/Government cases:

On May 6, 2014 Shatisha Monique Allen, 35, of Freeport, N.Y., pleaded guilty to one count of felony access device fraud and a second felony count of criminal conspiracy. Other charges including forgery, identity theft, and receiving stolen property were dismissed as a part of the plea agreement. She was sentenced to 3- 23 months in prison. When she is paroled she will face four years of probation while paying restitution of $923.31. On September 28, 2012 Allen made a credit card purchase at Bloomingdale’s after using stolen identification to acquire the card. While she was making the purchase, store security contacted the victim, who said she had not authorized anyone to open a card for her and sign her name. The police were called and Allen was arrested.