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'Youthful Indiscretion' Led To Accused Teen Fraudster's Felony Charges of Stealing $240K Car

"He's just a kid and he became high-tech savvy and thereupon a kid in a candy store," defense attorney said today of his 19-year-old client, jailed for allegedly renting the car and booking a $12 million vacation home with stolen credit cards.

$240,000 2012 McLaren. Photo: Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.
$240,000 2012 McLaren. Photo: Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.
Three additional credit card fraud and identity theft complaints are expected to be filed against a Rohnert Park teen who already faces charges of grand theft and vehicle theft using fraudulent credit cards, a Sonoma County prosecutor said this morning.

Defendant Mohannad Halaweh, 19, delayed entering a plea to eight felony charges in Sonoma County Superior Court this morning when Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar said he expects to file three more complaints from two or three North Bay counties.

Two of the complaints involve alleged fraudulent rental of a luxury vacation home through identity theft and credit card fraud, and the third involved credit fraud through identity theft, Jamar said.

All the cases will be filed and heard in Sonoma County. The next court date is July 11.

[Previous: Whee! Look What Teens Rent With Stolen Credit Card.]

Halaweh already faces charges he used a fraudulently obtained credit card number to rent a $240,000 McLaren sports car from a San Jose rental car company that later reported it stolen, and to book a $12 million vacation home in Glen Ellen on June 2.

Halaweh also faces a misdemeanor charge of providing alcohol to a minor at a large party on Dec. 29 in Sonoma.

Halaweh and a passenger, Nhimia Kahsay, 19, of Santa Rosa, were arrested on June 4 when a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy spotted the luxury vehicle on Dutton Avenue in Roseland.

Halaweh was out on bail and returning to Sonoma County from a court appearance in Alameda County when he was arrested.

He is charged there with buying iPhones and laptops with a fake credit card. Kahsay was booked in the Sonoma County jail for outstanding fraud warrants out of Del Norte County.

He posted bail and is scheduled to appear in court July 11.

Halaweh is being held in jail under $1 million bail. In the event he is able to post bail, there will be a hearing to assure the source of the bail was not fraudulently obtained.

After today's court hearing, defense attorney William Du Bois said Halaweh admits committing the offenses, accepts responsibility and the fact that he will be punished.

"It's just a giant theft case. It's a real, 2014, high-tech type case. Youthful high-tech indiscretion is a good start to describe his conduct," Du Bois said. "This entire case is a product of the youthful digital life."

"He's just a kid and he became high-tech savvy and thereupon a kid in a candy store," Du Bois said.

"We are not going to trial. We are handling this case under the assumption it will be settled by a plea, but we want to cover all our bases before we do," Du Bois said.

Any state prison term Halaweh receives for the current and future theft charges will be served in the Sonoma County jail because they are not violent crimes under the state's realignment sentencing guidelines, Du Bois said.

Halaweh graduated from Analy High School in Sebastopol, where he played basketball, and is enrolled in Santa Rosa Junior College, Du Bois said.

His family recently arrived in the U.S. but has relatives in the East Bay. Halaweh's father is a hard worker and is very upset, Du Bois said.

Prosecutor Jamar agreed it appears Halaweh will be eligible to serve any state prison sentence in the county jail.

"This is a very serious case in view of all the losses in Sonoma and other counties," Jamar said.

"He just pled guilty on June 4 in Alameda and he's driving a $240,000 sports car. It appears the threat of incarceration doesn't affect his engaging in credit card theft with impunity," Jamar said.

Jamar also took issue with the defense characterizing Halaweh's conduct as "youthful indiscretion."

"It was indiscriminate calculated theft. I would describe youthful indiscretion as something other than multiple felony cases of theft and fraud. It was very sophisticated credit card fraud and identity theft," Jamar said.
      
--Bay City News

George March June 14, 2014 at 08:00 PM
"Youthful indiscretion" in my book is more along the lines of TP-ing someone's house, not credit card fraud and auto theft... This kid obviously has been given a huge amount of unsupervised latitude in his teen years and has never been held responsible for his actions. He deserves to earn the maximum penalty.
Mary Ruggiero June 15, 2014 at 01:41 AM
"Youthful indiscretion?" What a creative description of multiple counts of grand theft.
Susan C. Schena June 16, 2014 at 12:34 PM
I'm afraid I had to remove a comment post for potentially libelous content, a violation of TOU and for the user's own protection.
Susan C. Schena June 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM
The poster can email me privately, if they wish, at susan.schena@patch.com

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