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7th Circuit affirms in part man’s convictions for producing fake documents

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There is enough evidence to support two of the three convictions of an East Chicago man stemming from his making and selling various counterfeit documents, but photocopies in his possession cannot support his conviction of unlawful possession of five or more false identification documents.

Christopher Spears was sentenced to 34 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release after being found guilty at trial of fraud during an attempted purchase of firearms, aggravated identity theft, producing false identification documents, possession of false identity documents with unlawful intent, and possession of an instrument designed to make a forged security. On appeal, he only challenges the aggravated identity theft, producing false identification documents, and possession of false identity documents convictions.

Spears sold Tirsah Payne a fraudulent handgun-carry permit that contained her actual identification information. Payne could not lawfully possess a gun. When Payne used the fake permit to attempt to buy a gun, the store became suspicious and reported it to the authorities. This led to Spears’ arrest and discovery of other fake documents.

In United States of America v. Christopher Spears, 11-1683, the 7th Circuit affirmed the conviction of aggravated identity theft. Spears argued that it couldn’t be identity theft if he used Payne’s actual information. His conduct falls within the literal terms of the statute because he “knowingly transfer[ed] … without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person” during or in relation to a predicate felony. His conviction of fraud during an attempted purchase of firearms relates to Payne’s attempt to buy a gun.

The judges affirmed his conviction of producing a false identification document, as the fake driver’s license underlying this count is sufficiently realistic that a reasonable jury could conclude that it appeared to be issued by the state of Indiana.

His conviction of unlawful possession of five or more false identification documents was reversed because, of the six pieces of evidence introduced to support this charge, only one would qualify. Two were photocopies of alleged fake driver’s licenses and three others were so clearly unprofessional that they do not appear to be issued by the state, the court held.

The judges remanded for resentencing.

 

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