ATM thefts are alleged

Two French nationals appeared in Summary Court Friday accused of thefts involving automatic teller machines.

Mouloud Bessa and Abdelkader Kebe, both 24, came to Cayman via the Bahamas, Defence Attorney John Furniss said.

They intended to stay here for a few days and then go back. They are from Marseille.

Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn said the offences were partly distraction thefts. The men allegedly told bank customers that their own ATM card had been retained by the machine.

When the customer would use his or her card, they would distract the card owner and take the card. The customer would think that the card had been retained by the machine.

Mrs. Gunn said there were two successful incidents and one attempt.

Bessa alone is charged with stealing one card and then using it three times to steal a total of $925.

Bessa and Kebe are charged with stealing $700 from another bank via ATM and attempting to steal a bank card.

The incidents occurred between 16-18 December.

Mr. Furniss said the defendants did not come to Cayman with the intention of involving themselves in criminal activity. He said they came here with sufficient Bahamian money, but the hotel here refused to accept it.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said that was natural. Bahamian money is good currency in its country, but not internationally. She gave the example of trying to pay a hotel in Miami with Cayman currency.

The magistrate also indicated that the scheme did not sound sophisticated. But if they were guilty they would be getting a custodial sentence, so time awaiting the next court date would not be wasted.

Mr. Furniss said contact had been made with family members in France and money will be wired to Cayman so that no one would be out of pocket.

One of the defendants said they had gone to the Bahamas with euros, exchanged their euros for Bahamian dollars and then thought they could exchange their Bahamian dollars here.

The magistrate said she did not accept that explanation.

The matter was set for mention again on 4 January. Until then, the men are remanded to Northward Prison. Investigations are continuing.

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