Buyer had lots of credit but the cards were bogus


A Florida Keys case of stolen identities and fake credit cards turned into a federal case with a guilty plea now expected April 20.

Rogelio Rodriguez, 42, of Hialeah filed to change his not-guilty plea April 4, soon after a federal judge in Miami dismissed the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence from a search of his Nissan van on May 26, 2016, on Key Largo.

In the silver van, Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported finding two dozen counterfeit credit cards with information stolen from active accounts.

The credit cards were imprinted with the name “Jesus Mardonado” — the same name on a phony Ohio driver's license that Rodriguez showed staff at the West Marine store in Key Largo.

The case originally was filed in Monroe County Circuit Court but later taken over by federal prosecutors who lodged a charge of possessing more than 15 counterfeit credit cards “affecting interstate and foreign commerce,” which carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

Rodriguez also was charged with three federal counts of identity theft, each carrying a maximum two-year sentence. A sentencing hearing is scheduled June 19 at the Key West federal courthouse before U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King.

Rodriguez is accused of trying to use six fake credit cards to buy an expensive GPS unit from West Marine. None of the cards worked and he left the store without the gear.

The store manager called the Sheriff’s Office to report an attempted fraud. Store staff noted that Rodriguez showed little interest in details of the navigation device and would not tell them the type of boat on which it was to be mounted.

FHP Trooper Michael Jordan spotted a van that matched the manager’s description make an illegal U-turn near mile marker 99. Rodriguez, a 6-footer who West Marine employees described in detail, presented his actual driver’s license.

Jordan said the driver showed “signs of extreme nervousness.... And in response to some of Trooper Jordan’s questions, [Rodriguez] provided answers that did not make sense,” U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutors wrote in a motion.

Rodriguez reportedly gave officers permission to search his van, where they found 25 fake credit cards and gift cards along with the bogus “Jesus Mordanado” driver’s license.

FHP Sgt. Pedro Reinoso and Sheriff’s Office Detectives Robert Dosh and Jacques Rozek took part in the investigation.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206