USA – August trial on for card-skimming defendants

By | May 30, 2017

JEFFERSON — An Aug. 14-15 trial remains on schedule for two Miami-area men charged with attempting to steal credit card informa­tion on a skimming de­vice planted at a Fort Atkinson gas station.

Liandry Alfonso Palaez, 27, of Miami, Fla., and Yasmani Mo­leiro Sardinas, 26, of Hialeah, Fla., are two of three men arrested in November after a skimming device was found on a gas pump in Fort Atkinson on Nov. 17, 2016. A monitoring device attached to the pump by investigators alerted Fort Atkinson police to the pump and ultimately led to the arrest of the three men.

More than 400 credit card numbers were found on the device, at least 14 of which bear local names.

Palaez and Sardinas both have pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted identity theft-financial gain.

On Friday, the two were scheduled to be appear before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick for a hearing related to Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Monica Hall’s objection to Florida attorney Alejandro De Varona representing both defendants at trial. She indicated that it is an unwaivable conflict and that De Varona cannot represent both suspects.

However, due to an apparent clerical error within the district attorney’s office, no writ was prepared to authorize transport of Palaez from the Brown County Jail, where he is currently in custody on a credit card forgery case.

De Varona, indicated that he and Hall had discussed plea offers that he had reviewed with both his clients.

“At this point, I guess we are moving forward with final status on Aug. 7 and trial and Aug 14-15,” De Varona said, indicating that he had not received a response from Hall regarding his latest email.

The prosecutor acknowledged that De Varona had sent her an email to which she had not responded yet. She further indicated that De Varona was requesting even less time than had been discussed during prior negotiation attempts she had rejected.

“I have presented my final offer to the defense. It is my understanding that is being rejected, so I presume we are set for trial,” Hall said.

De Varona acknowledged there was no breakdown in communication, and that he simply had not received a response to the email.

While both parties are prepared to move forward, Koschnick said he wanted to address Hall’s concern about De Varona’s ability to represent both suspects as soon as possible.

The issue first was raised when De Varona asked to represent both of the suspects. At the time, Hall indicated that she had no issue with him representing all three for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, but believed there would be a conflict were the case to go to trial.

With Palaez only available via telephone for Friday’s hearing, the judge said he was not ready to proceed. In addition, Hall had received De Varona’s response to her motion only on Friday.

A motion hearing was set for Thursday, June 1, with all parties being permitted to appear by telephone. Palaez will appear by videoconference if the connection can be established.

During the initial conversation of scheduling, Koschnick indicated that he preferred to have alleged suspects in court for any colloquy regarding the potential conflict. However, having subsequently come to the decision to hold the hearing telephonically, he indicated that he would be OK with conducting the colloquy by phone.

Both suspects had been subject to lengthy colloquy’s related to the potential conflict with De Varona representing both of them by retired Judge David Wambach at an earlier hearing.

The trial remains on schedule for Aug. 14-15.

Both Palaez and Sardinas remain free, having posted separate $3,000 cash bonds set at the time of their arrests.

As conditions of bond, the men are not to have contact with each other — by telephone calls, letters, emails, social media, texts or other electronic means — or have possession of any credit cards or credit card numbers belonging to other people.

A third co-defendant, Dunieski Santana Moreno, 26, last appeared in Jefferson County Court on Friday, Jan. 20.

Court records in Bremer County, Iowa, show that Mo­reno and two other people — Liliany Meana DeArmas, 20, and Pedro Alvarez Rodriguez, 35 — were taken into custody in Waverly, Iowa, on Feb. 1.

Waverly police officials stated that all three are originally from Cuba, noting that DeArmas is a permanent U.S. resident and Moreno and Rodriquez are in the country on expired work visas and are being detained.

A $5,000 cash bond was set for Moreno based on six counts of forgery for allegedly using stolen credit card numbers to load funds onto gift cards at a Walmart self-checkout station.

U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement officials stated that ICE officers took custody of Santana-Moreno on Feb. 3, 2017, following his arrest by local police in Bremer County, Iowa.

Due to Moreno’s current status caused by his own criminal behavior, Koschnick forfeited his $3,000 cash bond and authorized De Varona and Witt to withdraw as his counsel of record.

Source: Daily Union