A reader sent in a link to this Wonder Woman panel, asking “All joking aside, how illegal is this?”
The short answer is, unsurprisingly, “pretty illegal.” The longer answer is “but maybe not as illegal as you might think.” Although the linked post shows an excerpt from DC Special Series #19: Secret Origins of Super-Heroes (Fall 1979), the same basic story was first printed in Sensation Comics #1 (January 1942).
Under modern law, even though both Dianas Prince agreed to the transaction, it would still be identity theft. The state in which this is occurred
isn’t wasn’t clear to me*, but New York’s statute is typical:
A person is guilty of identity theft in the third degree when he or she knowingly and with intent to defraud assumes the identity of another person by presenting himself or herself as that other person, or by acting as that other person or by using personal identifying information of that other person, and thereby:
1. obtains goods, money, property or services
N.Y. Penal Code § 190.78. Assuming Wonder Woman went on to make bank transactions, collect a paycheck, etc using the other Diana Prince’s identity, that’s sufficient.
However, the good news for Wonder Woman is that identity theft laws don’t go back very far. New York’s was enacted in 2002, and the federal identity theft law was enacted in 1998. An admittedly not-particularly-exhaustive search didn’t turn up any identity theft laws in force in 1979, much less 1942.
The bad news is that the relevant parts of 18 USC § 1546(a) were in force in 1979, making it a federal crime to:
sell or otherwise dispose of…such visa, permit, or other document [prescribed by statute or regulation as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States], to any person not authorized by law to receive such document
As the purchaser, 1979 Wonder Woman would be liable for the same crime as a co-conspirator or solicitor. But 1942 Wonder Woman escapes that fate, since the original version of that law only goes back to 1948. A similar story applies to 26 USC § 7206 (fraud and false statements, like on a tax return) and 18 U.S. Code § 371 (conspiracy to defraud the US).
However, even if there wasn’t a federal crime that could be pinned on Wonder Woman for buying someone’s identity in 1942 (and I’m not saying there definitely wasn’t), the state she was in would have had fraud and conspiracy laws that would have applied in a case like this. But that would be small potatoes compared to the modern penalties for the same act.
Somewhere outside of Washington, DC apparently. Very likely in Washington, DC itself (thanks to TerryC for the correction!). I (still) defend my use of New York as an example on the grounds of laziness.