United States v. Hilton, Nos. 11-4273, 11-4298, 11-4743

Decided: December 13, 2012

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the convictions of Jimmy and Jacqueline Hilton because the identity theft statutes they were convicted under are fatally ambiguous. The court affirmed Tamatha Hilton’s convictions and affirmed the remaining convictions of Jimmy and Jacqueline Hilton with a remand of the case for resentencing.

Tamatha Hilton, Jimmy Hilton, and Jacqueline Hilton were charged with several counts including identity theft of The Woodsmiths Company, mail fraud, mail theft, money laundering, conspiracy, passing forged securities, and making a false statement to a financial institution. Tamatha Hilton was the office manager and bookkeeper at Woodsmiths. As a result of her position, she was able to intercept checks written to the Woodsmith, and instead of depositing the checks into the company’s account, she gave the checks to her husband, Jimmy Hilton. The defendants ultimately stole around $655,000. Jacqueline Hilton, Jimmy’s former wife, was paid by Jimmy to maintain a SunTrust bank account falsely purporting to be the owner of Woodsmith. Jimmy would give the checks he received from Tamatha to Jacqueline to be deposited into the SunTrust account.

The main issue on appeal is whether or not Jimmy and Jacqueline were erroneously charged with identity theft and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028(a)(7) and 1028A (the identity theft statutes). The defendants argued that the language of these statutes does not encompass stealing the identity of a corporation. The statutes make it unlawful to knowingly take the identity “of another person.” The court held that there was no evidence to indicate that Congress intended the statutes to protect corporate victims as well as individuals. For this reason the convictions of Jimmy and Jacqueline under the identity theft statutes were vacated. However, their other numerous convictions were affirmed, and Tamatha’s various convictions were also affirmed.

Full Opinion

-Samantha James

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