No jail, no restitution in $160K credit fraud
PEABODY — Two women arrested in the midst of a months-long, high-end shopping spree, using stolen credit cards, won't spend a day in jail, a Salem Superior Court judge has decided.
Ylka Acosta, 49, of New Milford, Connecticut, pleaded guilty Friday to a string of charges that include money laundering, credit card fraud, conspiracy and attempted larceny. Co-defendant Carolin Leonardo, 35, of Central Falls, Rhode Island, is expected to plead guilty to the same charges next week.
The two, according to prosecutor Phil Mallard, are responsible for an estimated loss of more than $160,000 over a 10-month period, from stores all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire, by using stolen credit card numbers printed on forged credit and debit cards.
They targeted high-end stores including Gucci, Ferragamo, Burberry, Barney's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales, as well as multiple BJ's Wholesale Club locations, where they purchased some of the most expensive televisions sold there.
They also started purchasing Rolex watches from various Long's Jewelers locations — a move that led to their arrests back in February 2015 by Peabody police.
Following a conference earlier this week, Judge Timothy Feeley concluded, however, that not only do the women not have to pay restitution but they will receive suspended jail terms of 2 1/2 years, to be served only if they violate the terms of their probation.
Mallard, who spent months compiling the financial records of the fraudulent purchases, had asked Feeley to sentence Acosta to three to four years in state prison, noting her prior history of similar crimes in Arkansas and West Virginia.
Jeweler gets suspicious
The spree was interrupted when employees of the Long's Jewelers chain became suspicious of the cards that Acosta was using to pay for Rolex watches.
After an employee of the Burlington store turned down a purchase of a $10,000 watch, concerned that something about the credit card didn't feel right, the two women, in Leonardo's Acura MDX SUV, headed straight to the Peabody store. Managers called police as they walked in.
Peabody police stopped the pair as they were pulling out of the parking lot.
Inside the SUV police found numerous receipts as well as 11 different credit cards.
They also found designer handbags and sunglasses.
"This was her occupation, essentially," Mallard told Judge James Lang on Friday.
Lang had agreed to go along with Feeley's proposed sentence because Feeley was unavailable Friday.
It's not just the stores that were victimized, Mallard said.
One Framingham man told Lang how he was still grieving the death of his wife when he discovered his card information had been stolen and used. He's spent months now monitoring his credit and setting up new accounts.
He told Lang he doesn't understand how the two women can avoid any jail time. "I just don't understand that," he told the judge. "Especially if it's not the first time."
Mallard read letters from four other victims who said their lives were also disrupted — one woman had to cancel her credit card because the number had been used at the Danvers Guitar Center. She had been planning to travel for Thanksgiving, but the cancelation of the card complicated those plans.
Another told of having to tell his story over and over again to customer service representatives to get the fraudulent charges removed.
Court-appointed lawyers for the pair, however, convinced Feeley that the two were not the ringleaders, but acted more as "runners" for a larger organization. And they suggested that the women did not profit from the scheme.
After the hearing, Acosta walked out of court with Leonardo, who had posted not only Acosta's $5,000 bail in the case but her own, which was originally set at $10,000 and later reduced.
Leonardo was wearing Gucci loafers and carrying a leather Burberry bag as she waited at the clerk's office to get back the bail she had posted for Acosta.
She'll be back in Salem Superior Court next Wednesday for her own change of plea hearing.
Article From:- http://www.salemnews.com