Cruise passenger pleads to fraud

While on his honeymoon cruise, an American resident committed five credit card offences in Grand Cayman.

Carlos Echemendia Rodriguez, 30, and his wife arrived here aboard the Navigator of the Seas around 11am on 1 December. He was arrested at the North Terminal while waiting to go back to the ship. He was brought to court on 7 December and the matter was adjourned so that an interpreter could be obtained.

On Tuesday, 14 December, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining property by deception – that is, by falsely representing that the credit card account he presented was a good and valid order for payment. From two different stores he obtained merchandise valued at US$137 and US$39.

The three other charges were attempting to obtain property by deception. They related to expensive watches at two different stores.

After hearing that the defendant was on probation for credit card offences in Florida, Magistrate Nova Hall imposed five terms of 12 months imprisonment and directed that they run concurrently.

The magistrate also commended the store clerks for their quick action in reporting the transactions and the police for their fast response.

Crown Counsel Gail Johnson provided details of the offences. She explained that Rodriguez and his wife went to a downtown duty-free store. There he indicated he wanted to purchase a watch, the price of which was US$3,750. He presented three credit cards and a drivers licence from Ohio, all bearing his name.

Each card was declined and ‘report calls’ were then made by the sales associate. But the defendant did not want her to make the calls. He reached over the counter and took the cards and the couple left the store.

The store manager notified police immediately. As police approached the couple, Rodriguez dropped one of the credit cards and the Ohio licence.

Officers found the other two credit cards in his wife’s purse. The couple had the merchandise obtained from two stores.

Inquiries were made and the cards were found to be fraudulent.

When interviewed, Mrs. Rodriguez said she had no knowledge that the cards were false. Her husband took full responsibility and said it was he who put the cards in her purse.

Further inquiries indicated that the defendant had used a credit card on 30 November to obtain a watch in Jamaica.

Rodriguez was found to have a Florida drivers licence in his name also; the Ohio licence had a different date of birth.

In his interview, the defendant initially told police he had found the credit cards in a wallet and used them.

Credit card companies, however, said the cards had been issued to four different customers, none by the name of Rodriguez.

The Financial Crime Unit in Cayman has been in contact with authorities in Florida; necessary arrangements will be made regarding Rodriguez’ breach of probation, the court heard.

Defence Attorney James Austin-Smith pointed out that the value of the goods obtained was actually very low and the goods were recovered, so ‘there was no loss’ to anyone.

He noted that Mrs. Rodriguez, who was five months pregnant, had to spend five days in custody. Her honeymoon and holiday had been totally ruined.

The defendant, a Cuban national, will almost certainly have lost his job in the US because of his extended period away without explanation, Mr. Austin-Smith said. Further, when the defendant is released from Cayman he will face punishment in the US for his breach. The justice of the case could therefore be met with a short sentence, he urged.

The magistrate pointed to the sophistication of the offence.

Economies such as in Cayman that are dependent on giving a great deal of latitude in financial transactions are particularly vulnerable to fraud, she said.

In other jurisdictions, a high incidence of fraud has led to rigid rules concerning the type and amount of identification required to enact financial transactions, the magistrate observed.

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