|Plea delayed for RP man accused of identity theft
More charges pending for 19-year-old Halaweh; attorney claims a case of ‘youthful indiscretion’
The Rohnert Park man accused of credit card fraud and auto theft delayed entering a plea in Sonoma County Superior Court on Friday, as the prosecuting attorney relayed there is likely to be additional charges filed against him.
Mohannad Halaweh, 19, who already faces eight charges – auto theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, three counts of identity theft and three counts of credit card theft – is expected to face three more charges of credit card fraud and identity theft, according to Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar.
The new charges pending are from two or three North Bay counties. According to Jamar, two of the new complaints are for fraudulent rental of a luxury vacation home through identity theft and credit card fraud, and the third involves credit fraud through identity theft.
Halaweh’s attorney, William Du Bois, agreed to delay his client’s plea to allow the prosecution time to file all the charges. The District Attorney’s office is awaiting a report from the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, which has been investigating this case.
All charges will be filed and heard in Sonoma County, and Halaweh’s next court date is July 11, when he is expected to enter his plea. Du Bois expects this case to be settled with a plea deal, but he’ll wait until all the charges are filed. Halaweh’s bail originally was set at $100,000 but as additional information came in, it was raised to and remains $1 million.
He’s still in custody at Sonoma County Jail. The judge said if Halaweh is able to make bail, then a bail hearing would be held to make sure the source of bail was not obtained fraudulently.
According to the Bay City News, following the court hearing, Du Bois likened Halaweh to a kid in a candy store.
“He's just a kid and he became high-tech savvy and thereupon a kid in a candy store,” Du Bois said. “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.”
Jamar’s view on this case was the polar opposite to that of Du Bois, particularly the part about youthful indiscretion. He called it indiscriminate, calculated theft.
“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. 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.”
Initial charges against the Analy High graduate stem from a fraudulently obtained credit card number to rent a $240,000 McLaren high-end 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 was one of two suspects arrested by deputies for possession of stolen property and credit card fraud on June 4.
According to Sheriff’s Office report, a deputy patrolling in the Roseland area in Santa Rosa spotted a stolen 2012 McLaren. The vehicle was stopped on Dutton Avenue and the driver, Halaweh, and passenger Nhimia Kahsay, also 19, of Santa Rosa, were arrested without incident.
Halaweh also is suspected of using a fake credit card to rent a luxury home in Sonoma last December, where he hosted a wild bash that included underage drinking, according to the Sheriff’s Office. That party was busted up after reports of gunfire. Halaweh also faces a misdemeanor charge of providing alcohol to a minor.
Halaweh, who graduated from Analy High in Sebastopol and was a key player on its basketball team, is also under suspicion for trying to buy 14 iPhones and two MacBook Air laptop computers, valued at more than $10,000 with a fraudulent Visa card at the Apple Store in Berkeley in March, according to the news website Berkeleyside.
He actually was out on bail and returning from a court date in Alameda County when he was arrested June 4 in Santa Rosa.