Bond mix-up sends attorneys scrambling to locate New York identity theft suspect – The Times

A New York woman accused of being part of an identity theft ring that used fraudulent credit cards to get cash advances from cashiers at the Harrah’s casino in New Orleans got her bond revoked and a new warrant issued for her arrest.

While an Orleans Parish prosecutor expressed concern that “this defendant may be on the run,” a defense attorney for Jessenia Ruiz insisted Wednesday that nothing could be farther from the truth.

“She is flying back here and we will be in court Friday,” Covington defense lawyer Ernest Bauer said. “This was nothing more than a misunderstanding.”

Ruiz’s case drew the ire of prosecutors last week, when it appeared the woman had received a bond reduction without the opportunity for state opposition, and that a judge’s actions allowed the 25-year-old suspect to slip out of Louisiana without permission.

Ruiz was arrested on six counts each of theft of $1,500 or more, identity theft, forgery, unauthorized use of an access card, access device fraud, monetary instrument abuse and of manufacturing, distributing or possessing fraudulent documents for identification.

Louisiana State Police say in an arrest report Ruiz was captured on casino video surveillance making six cash-advance withdrawals totaling $14,000 during a weekend in December 2012. Police said the withdrawals were made using fraudulent credit cards bearing her name, but with legitimate account numbers belonging to other people whose funds were removed from accounts with Regions Bank, Citibank and J.P. Morgan.

Bauer said his client learned she was wanted and returned to New Orleans “of her own free will,” surrendering to state police for her arrest two weeks ago on May 28.

Bauer said Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny set Bond for Ruiz, who Bauer said has no criminal history, and granted permission for her to return to New York. But that order, Bauer said, was not properly recorded and filed by the court clerk’s office.

On May 29, Ruiz appeared before Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell, who set her bond at $210,000 — $5,000 for each count. But later that morning, her case appeared back in Derbigny’s courtroom, and he reduced Ruiz’s bond total to just $21,000 – one-tenth of what Cantrell ordered. Prosecutors were unaware of the change until the following Monday, and by then Derbigny was out of town for a a bar association conference held in Florida.

Derbigny was not in chambers Wednesday afternoon and did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

“Situations such as this are extremely frustrating,” said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman, spokesman for DA Leon Cannizzaro’s office. “We have repeatedly requested that the court not set or alter the bond obligations of defendants without the input of the District Attorney’s office.”

Assistant District Attorney Edward McAuliffe last week filed two motions, one to increase Ruiz’s bail amount back to $210,000 and another to order her return to Louisiana. McAuliffe had to argue for his motions twice Tuesday, once before Cantrell and later before Derbigny.

“This is a very serious, complex case,” McAuliffe told Cantrell, the magistrate judge. “This involves a serious ring of identity thieves and forgers. We are very concerned this defendant could be in mid-flight right now. Both the state and law enforcement are concerned this defendant may be on the run.”

Bauer was not present for the Cantrell hearing, but did speak in Derbigny’s court, where he assured the judge that Ruiz will appear before him for a new bond hearing this Friday morning.

“There aren’t any problems,” Bauer said. “(Prosecutors) just didn’t know to call me, or that Judge Derbigny had previously set a bond amount the day before (Cantrell).

“She will fly in this Friday so they can lay eyes on her.”

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