More charges for ‘high roller’
Prosecutors tack on 46 more fraud-related charges for Halaweh
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By Dave Williams  July 18, 2014 12:00 am

The legal problems for a Rohnert Park man accused of, among other things, identity theft got a whole lot steeper when Sonoma County prosecutors added 46 additional criminal charges to the eight already filed.

The charges reflect what authorities say show an elaborate and sophisticated scheme perpetrated against several victims throughout Northern California for a little more than half a year. 

Mohannad Halaweh, 19, is accused of manufacturing credit cards at his home and using computer software to steal financial identities. 

With that vast amount of false credit, Halaweh is accused of living a high-rolling lifestyle that included fast cars and luxury home rentals.

Initial charges against the Analy High graduate in Sonoma County 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.

Law enforcement agencies from throughout Northern California have searched Halaweh’s phones and computers and have discovered quite a bit of incriminating evidence, according to county prosecutors, who presented Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana Simonds with an amended complaint detailing all the new charges against Halaweh. He remains in Sonoma County Jail on $1 million bail.

Fraud, forgery, credit card fraud in six counties from Humboldt to Santa Clara and thefts from several stores using fake credit cards are included in the new charges against Halaweh.

Investigators identified nearly two-dozen victims, including Safeway and individuals whose personal financial information was found in Halaweh’s possession. 

None of the victims were aware their information was used to make fraudulent credit cards until notified by their issuers of their credit cards, prosecutors said.

Santa Rosa’s Nhimia Kahsay, 19, who was arrested with Halaweh, has been named in some of the new charges and was arrested in connection with a Crescent City fraud incident. He is accused of stealing nearly $150,000 worth of gift cards from Safeway stores by purchasing them with fake credit cards.

A multi-agency law enforcement team had been investigating Halaweh and Kahsay for about two months prior to their June 4 arrest in Santa Rosa. The investigation was triggered when Safeway’s loss prevention department contacted the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force early in April. It was discovered the two had been purchasing dozens of gift cards, usually prepaid Visas, at Safety stores up and down the North Coast, which drew the store’s attention.

The funds, after being converted to the gift cards, were virtually untraceable as cash.

Kahsay probably will face charges of auto theft and possession of stolen property.

Halaweh is expected to enter a plea on Aug. 1.

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