Two jailed for ATM theft

Two Frenchmen were sentenced last week to 30 days imprisonment after pleading guilty to thefts involving a bank Automatic Teller Machine.

Mouloud Bessa and Abdelkader Kebe admitted stealing a Visa card at an ATM on 17 December and using it to withdraw US$500, CI$400 and CI$25.

They also admitted stealing another Visa card the next day and using it to withdraw CI$400 and CI$300.

They pleaded not guilty to attempting to steal a card at another bank and theft of $700. Crown Counsel Laura Manson asked for this set of charges to be left on file.

When the defendants first appeared in court just before Christmas, Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn said the offences were partly distraction thefts. The men 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 (Caymanian Compass, 28 December).

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the scheme did not sound sophisticated. She agreed with Defence Attorney John Furniss that it did not involve hidden cameras or cloned cards.

Mr. Furniss also confirmed that the brother of one of the defendants had sent money to pay restitution.

He suggested the magistrate could impose fines and said the men had been in custody two weeks already. He asked that this country be rid of them as soon as possible so that more money would not be spent on their upkeep.

The magistrate said she had been thinking of a three-month sentence for each, but she was sympathetic to the submission that government should not have to pay to keep the men here.

Further, Cayman would not be spending a single dollar repatriating them, she said after recommending them for deportation.

The defendants, both 24, were in the Bahamas on vacation and came to Cayman as visitors, Mr. Furniss said. They had no intention to commit any crime here.

When they checked into a local hotel, they produced Bessa’s brother’s MasterCard, but not any authorisation to use it. They then produced Bahamian dollars, which the hotel was not willing to accept.

Mr. Furniss explained that they had exchanged all their euros in the Bahamas. Because of the problems over money to pay the hotel, they stupidly involved themselves in two series of offences. After they got money, they returned to the hotel and paid for their accommodations.

The magistrate said she found it almost impossible to believe their story. She wondered whether they would have stayed to commit the scheme over and over again if they had not been caught. She noted the ease with which they had pulled it off.

Mr. Furniss said police inquiries did bear out their story. He added that the defendants did have return tickets to the Bahamas and then to France.