I’ve been reading about the growing connection between identity theft and methamphetamine use, but after seeing a report this morning about a woman in Oregon who was sentenced to more than four years in prison for identity and mail theft in addition to possession of methamphetamine, I wanted to explore this topic a little more. I discovered that the hours meth users keep, the type of high they achieve and the social patterns of methamphetamine production create the perfect environment for committing identity theft.
A Google search for the terms “identity theft” and “meth” brings up hundreds of articles linking the two. Two men in South Dakota were just arrested for identity theft and drug use — one of the drugs being methamphetamines. A TransWorldNews article discussing identity theft mentions a news report aired in Colorado which “illustrated links between drug trafficking and identity theft. Police there broke up an identity theft ring whose very purpose was to financially support the criminals’ addiction to methamphetamine.”
Two men in California were recently arrested for identity theft, and a police examination of their hotel room found “laptop computers still in the box, credit cards, embossing machines used to make credit cards, newly purchased clothing, suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia,” according to a Marin Independent Journal article. Another recent sting in Ohio found two men guilty of identity theft and possession of methamphetamine.
I could go on and on with cases involving both crimes. So why does identity theft and methamphetamine use seem to go hand-in-hand? A New York Times article from two years ago, which is still as relevant as ever, says it took police a while to connect the two. Once they did, however, it made perfect sense: “Meth users — awake for days at a time and able to fixate on small details — were looking for checks or credit card numbers, then converting the stolen identities to money, drugs or ingredients to make more methamphetamine.” Committing identity theft “was the perfect support system,” the article says.
While identity theft is certainly still committed by sober criminals, “meth users have become the everyday face of identity theft. Like crack cocaine in the 1980s, officials say, the rise of methamphetamine has been accompanied by a specific set of crimes and skills that are shared among users and dealers,” according to the Times. Joe Morales, the director of Denver’s District Attorney’s Office economic crimes unit tells the Times that 60 percent to 70 percent of the department’s identity theft cases involve methamphetamine users or dealers, and the crime rings generally contain 10 or more individuals.
Morales also says the states with the highest incidences of identity theft, which are Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Colorado, all have illegal immigration and meth use in common.
A Colorado mother of four who was once a part of an identity theft ring tells the Times that everyone she knew who did meth was involved in fraud, identity theft or mail theft. She also said they all helped each other and everyone had a role in the crime.
Additionally, “prosecutors, police officers, drug treatment professionals, former identity thieves and recovering addicts describe a connection between meth use and identity theft that is fluid and complementary, involving the hours that addicts keep, the nature of a methamphetamine high and the social patterns of meth production and use, which differ from those of other illegal drugs,” the article says.
To catch a thief
Unfortunately, the article explains, meth users may be the easiest to catch, but there are surely plenty of non-meth users committing identity theft who find it easy to lay low because they are not involved in drugs. Then again, there’s Jocelyn Kirsch and Edward Anderton, who committed identity theft sober (as far as we know) but still managed to get caught.
The New York Times article goes on in much greater detail than I should cover here, but I highly recommend reading the full piece if you are interested in the identity theft/meth connection. A Consumer Affairs article from last year also thoroughly covers the link between the crimes.
Perhaps this all means that if law enforcement can crack down harder on meth, identity theft will let up a bit. What do you think?