Credit card con men jailed

| 12/03/2014

(CNS): Two Malaysian nationals who between them stole and tried to steal more than US$200,000 worth of jewellery from stores in Grand Cayman with cloned credit cards were both sentenced to 16 months in jail on Tuesday. The court heard that the men arrived in Cayman via Dubai with more than 100 cloned credit cards in their names, which they used in several stores to buy or try to buy expensive jewels and watches. However, the con men, allegedly sent here by Malaysian loan sharks, raised suspicions, and having told store staff where they were staying when they made purchases with their fraudulent cards, the police were easily able to locate and arrest the men.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, crown counsel Toyin Salako related the details of the case to visiting Grand Court judge, Justice Malcolm Swift.

She said that Hew Senn Wann (51) pleaded guilty to obtaining a money transfer by deception of US$74,161 and attempting to obtain a money transfer of US$36,000. During his efforts to buy high value goods Wann had attempted to use more than 20 different cards before the men were caught.

Thanabalan Manogar (31) pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception for the sum of US$86,623 and two attempts at US$39,610 using about four different cards.

They came to Cayman on the 1 and 2 of October 2013 respectively on the instructions, they claimed, of a man called ‘Tom’ in Malaysia, who appears to have been a credit card cloner. The men said they were both indebted to this loan shark and were struggling to pay him back. Following threats to their families, the men had, according to their defence attorneys, been told if they did what was described as a “job” in Grand Cayman their debts would be erased.

Arriving here with more than 50 cloned cards, both men proceeded to try and purchase expensive watches and jewellery in two of Kirks down town jewellery stores, as well as the Magnum Jewellery store at the Marriott Hotel. They also paid for their stays at the Marriott and the Comfort Suites with the cloned cards.

Even though Wann had presented some 18 different cards during one trip to Kirks jewellery store in Cardinal Avenue, it was not until Manogar raised the suspicions of staff at the Bay Shore Mall store that the men were apprehended. The sales assistant there had taken the details of the men and where they were staying and passed the information to the police.

Caught with more than 100 cloned cards between them, as well as the fraudulently obtained Rolex and other designer watches, the men admitted coming to Cayman on the instructions of their Malaysian handlers when they were arrested. A series of text messages on the men’s phones indicated that they were indeed following step by step instructions from someone named Tom.

In mitigation, defence counsel for Wann, John Furniss, and Prathna Bodden for Manogar, who was a Tamil speaker and assisted by an interpreter, both pointed out that their clients had no previous convictions, and although they were part of a plan to steal high value goods, the pair were not the planners and their only gain from the goods they were trying to steal would have been to have their debts cleared.

Prathna Bodden also told the court that the delay in her client’s guilty plea was as a result, once again, of major disclosure problems from the crown and Financial Crimes Unit, which she said had not produced any evidence at all against her client, who does not speak English, despite various court orders, until she filed for a dismissal hearing.

She said that Manogar, who was a lorry driver in Malaysia and not very well educated, had no idea that he was being sent to Grand Cayman to use cloned cards until he was aboard the aircraft and had open a package as instructed by his handlers, who gave it to him to find the multiple credit cards.

The judge said that he took fully into account that the men had no previous convictions and gave full weight to their personal family circumstances.

“But it has to be said that both of you came to the Cayman Islands as part of a plot,” he said. “That plot was to obtain high value merchandise using cloned credit cards. You were, in my opinion, part of a team.”

Justice Swift said he was satisfied that the crime was deliberately targeted at this jurisdiction because, like other islands in the region, Cayman is vulnerable to this type of offending as the stores here are familiar with foreign tourists purchasing high value goods with foreign credit cards and familiar with occasions when cards are not cleared for various legitimate reasons.

“You and your handlers were taking advantage of the loophole in system,” the judge said, explaining that there is no 'chip and pin' system employed here and that with so many international cards in use the men were able to make purchases, even though some of their cloned cards were rejected

“I accept that you were instruments of the system,” the judge told the men as they stood in the dock, but he added that they were willing participants and, despite their claims regarding the loans, he said he believed they were motivated by greed.

With no local cases to compare sentences, the judge used the UK sentencing guidelines and started with a 2 year sentence for both men on both counts to run concurrently. 

However, given their guilty pleas, he said they would receive a one third discount, reducing the time to 16 months with time served since 3 October, when they were arrested, taken into consideration.

A third Malaysian national remains on remand after pleading guilty last Friday to a similar offence. Teck Kuan is expected to be sentenced next month.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah but now Cayman has to pay to take care of them which can potentially cost much more for that prison term- health care, food etc.

  2. Michel says:

    I believe they should have been given a huge fine and ship them home, if not WE have to pay for their stay at Northward.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Another outsider ruining our island! Bring In The finger Printing System & protect our island from negative outsiders! Concern Citizen

    • Diogenes says:

      No prior criminal records, so that would really have worked, right.  And even if they were hardened Malaysian criminals, do you think that a jurisdiction that cannot find a missing 777 airliner and let 4 people carrying stolen passports unto a plane  would be able to respond within 5 minutes to an enquiry from Owen Roberts immigration as to whether these guys had any form.  You are living in fantasy land, my friend.

  4. UHUHUH says:

    I hope the store attendant that noticed their odd behavior is  given an award of some kind for being observant and proactive, by calling the police!

    • Anonymous says:

      And the one who saw no problem with a customer attempting to use 18 different credit cards be given, at a minimum, some serious fraud prevention training…

  5. Hummmm says:

    Should be getting at least 1 year per cloned card.