St. Lucie County Sheriff's detectives jail four Port St. Lucie residents for 146 counts of credit card fraud and identity theft, according to Sheriff Mascara
St. Lucie County Sheriff’s detectives arrested four Port St. Lucie residents and took them to the St. Lucie County jail Friday on 146 charges of credit card fraud, identity theft and related crimes, according to Sheriff Ken J. Mascara.
"Our investigation took two months," Sheriff Mascara said. "It began Sept. 27 when alert Publix employees at the 7576 South U.S.1 store noticed that one of the suspects was trying to make a purchase with a Visa card that was tied to a MasterCard account number, meaning it had been re-encoded illegally."
Sheriff Mascara also said, “Identity theft is the number one crime in America, compromising the credit of millions of Americans every year. With these arrests, we will prevent the further victimization of unsuspecting residents who might have had their identity stolen through everyday purchases. During this holiday season I urge shoppers to protect their credit information and never share that information with unknown persons.”
Jailed under $825,000 bond is Kerben Metellus, 25 (DOB 8/6/1967), of 1466 Hackensack Avenue, S.W., Port St. Lucie, charged with 78 counts. Monique Samantha Knight, 21 (DOB 210/14/1992), of 2148 S.W. Cameo Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, was jailed under $370,000 bond and faces 34 counts. Romario Junior Brown, 19 (DOB 6/8/1994), of 481 N.W. Biltmore Street, Port St. Lucie, was jailed under $320,000 bond with 28 counts. All three remain confined at the St. Lucie County jail in lieu of bond.
A fourth suspect, Samuel Rene, 24 (DOB 12/3/1988), of 1055 S.W. Paar Drive, Port St. Lucie, was jailed under $37,500 bond on Friday on six charges. He posted bond that same day and was released from custody pending a future court hearing.
Before Rene’s name was known to investigators, store surveillance photos of him were posted on the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page (facebook.com/stluciesheriff), which generated tips from the public that helped detectives identify him.
At the Publix at 7576 South U.S.1, Metellus on Sept. 27 tried to use a fraudulent credit card, and store employees asked him for identification. He refused and left the store. The store manager got a photo of the car Metellus left in, a 2012 Kia Forte driven by a woman later identified as Knight, Sheriff Mascara said.
Further investigation showed that Metellus, Knight, Brown and Rene were using stolen credit card numbers encoded on gift cards at stores including Publix, Target, WalMart, Walgreens, and several other retailers in St. Lucie County and other areas on Florida’s east coast.
Detectives served a search warrant Friday at the homes of Brown and Knight and learned that Metellus was the supplier of the fraudulent credit cards.
Metellus admitted to detectives that he bought compromised or stolen credit card information on the internet and re-encoded the credit card numbers onto gift cards he already owned. Detectives seized the machine Metellus used to re-encode the cards.
The investigation is continuing, and additional charges are pending.
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Kerben Metellus, charged with 78 counts of ID theft and credit card fraud
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