IRON COUNTY – Three out-of-state travelers arrested in Iron County on their way to California Aug. 9 have been released from jail and now await their initial court appearances.
On Aug. 9, Utah Highway Patrol pulled over a white 2016 Ford Explorer with three occupants. The traffic stop was initiated for speeding, but the vehicle’s occupants were found in possession of a card skimmer and multiple fraudulent credit cards.
The Explorer was pulled over at about 8:30 a.m. in the area of the Kanarraville rest stop, near milepost 44 on southbound Interstate 15, UHP Sgt. Ryan Bauer said. The Explorer was a rental car, he said, and not only was the renter not present in the vehicle, but the driver of the vehicle was driving on a suspended license.
“And so, when the rental car company was contacted, they said go ahead and impound the car because the person who had rented it wasn’t with the car,” Bauer said.
Once the car was in UHP custody, a search was conducted that revealed multiple credit cards, gift cards and a card skimmer.
The driver of the vehicle, Jonathan Matthew Colon, 27, of Encino, California, has been charged with two class C misdemeanors for speeding and driving on a suspended license and five third-degree felonies for unlawful acquisition, possession and/or transfer of a finance card.
Colon’s traveling companions, 30-year-old Jennifer Renee Martin, of Los Angeles, California, and 23-year-old Marquis Levon Floyd, of Langston, Oklahoma, have each been charged with five third-degree felonies for unlawful acquisition, possession and/or transfer of a finance card.
Thirteen credit cards bearing the name Joyce Martin were found, according to a probable cause statement filed by a UHP trooper in support of the arrests.
When the trooper first pulled the vehicle over, the statement said, conflicting information was given by both Colon and Floyd, which led the trooper to believe there may have been drugs on board with the travelers.
A K-9 unit was called, according to the statement, and the K-9 search yielded positive hits on the interior and back of the vehicle. No drugs were found during the search, however – only the fraudulent cards and skimmer.
“Each card appeared to be shaved and altered to have different numbers and name,” the probable cause statement said. “There was no Joyce Martin in the vehicle as well.”
At the time of their arrests, Colon, Martin and Floyd were each charged with 13 counts of credit card fraud, but after a review of the case by the Iron County Attorney’s office, the fraud charges were amended to five each.
Oftentimes, after a charge has been presented by an arresting officer, Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett said, the charge will be amended by the county attorney’s office to reflect the charges that are fully prosecutable based on the evidence collected.
Colon, Martin and Floyd were each booked into the Iron County Jail on Aug. 9. Each was released on bond on Aug. 11.
An initial appearance has been schedule for each on Aug. 25 at the 5th District Court building in Cedar City.
Protect yourself from credit card fraud
A credit card skimmer is an electronic device that attaches to a gas pump or automated teller machine, Bauer said.
When a customer swipes a card, the skimmer allows the parent machine to collect the data needed to process the customer’s request while also storing vital card information for the owner of the skimmer to use at a future date.
The sophistication of modern technology allows would-be credit thieves to take the numbers stored on the skimmer and apply them to the magnetic strip of a completely different card with the owner’s name on it, Bauer said, giving the appearance of a legitimate card.
It is virtually impossible for someone with an uneducated eye to see and recognize a credit card skimmer at the various places they could be used, Bauer said, but there are some ways for consumers to protect themselves.
“My biggest advice is to get a good card that’s got good fraud protection on it,” Bauer said. “And if you can give it to a person, physically hand it to a person that can run that card for you rather than running it through the (gas) pump, that’s better too.”
Bauer also recommended regular credit checks so consumers can become familiar with what should be on a credit report and what should not be, so if something unexpected pops up it can be caught right away.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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