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State v. Meza

August 3, 2007

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLEE,
v.
MARIA ELENA HERNANDEZ MEZA, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Bourbon District Court; GERALD W. HART, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. In determining the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case, the appellate court reviews all the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, the State, in order to determine if a rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in considering the statutory requirements for a successful prosecution and the potential bar of the statute of limitations, an appellate court's review is unlimited.

2. The function of statutory construction is to determine the legislature's intent. Courts presume the legislature expressed its intent through the language of the statutory scheme it employed. In considering the language of a statute, courts give ordinary words their ordinary meanings. Courts do not add language not found in the statute or exclude language found in it. If the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, courts give effect to the legislature's expressed intent rather than substitute their own view of what the law ought to be.

3. The crime of identity theft does not require proof of economic loss to the victim but only proof of the defendant's intent to defraud for his or her own economic benefit.

4. The economic benefit element of the crime of identity theft can be satisfied with evidence that the defendant used documents, such as a social security card bearing the social security number of another person, in order to cause a prospective employer to hire the defendant and thereby invested the defendant with certain property rights and benefits that attached to the job.

5. The 2-year limitation period of K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3106(8) applies to the crime of identity theft.

6. A separate offense is committed each time every element of an offense occurs, unless it plainly appears that the legislature intended to prohibit a continuing offense, in which case the offense occurs when the course of the criminal conduct ends.

7. The nature of identity theft involves more than the surreptitious acquisition of a victim's personal information. It includes the multitude of injurious acts which flow from the acquisition of that information. In enacting K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-4018(a) the legislature considered identity theft to be not a single act but a continuous course of criminal conduct. Thus, the limitation period of K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3106(8) for prosecution of identity theft commences to run when the continuous course of criminal conduct ends.

8. Res gestae no longer qualifies as an independent basis for admitting evidence in Kansas.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McANANY, J.

Affirmed.

Before MARQUARDT, P.J., McANANY, J., and BRAZIL, S.J.

Nayssa Davila, a lifetime resident of Texas, had been adopted by her stepfather at age 7 and her name was changed to Nyssa Carlson. At some point following her adoption the name on her social security account was changed from Nayssa Davila to Nyssa Nicole Carlson.

Maria Meza arrived in this country from Mexico in 1998 at age 15. She lived with her grandparents in Pittsburg. She purchased a social security card and a Kansas ID card in the name of Nayssa Davila from a man in Missouri and used these documents to obtain work at a bacon packaging plant in Pittsburg.

In October 2000, Meza obtained employment at Peerless Products in Fort Scott using the name and documents of Nayssa Davila. The following year Carlson began getting threatening calls from debt collection agencies.

In August 2004, Carlson received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stating she owed over $3,000 in unpaid taxes. She learned that the unpaid taxes were assessed for income she reportedly earned at Peerless. Carlson had never been to Kansas. She contacted the human resource manager at Peerless and Officer Robert Jackson of the Fort Scott Police Department. Jackson went to Peerless and learned that Peerless had an employee named Nyssa Davila who used a social security card and a Kansas identification card issued under that name. When Meza returned to Peerless a few days later to pick up her paycheck, Jackson arrested her on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear and, ...


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