Credit card theft lands man with probation

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Dowagiac man received his receipt Friday morning in a Cass County courtroom for a shopping excursion last winter with a stolen debit card.

Cass County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 34-year-old Shywayn Devon Lee to 18 months of probation on a count of possession of financial transaction device and stealing a financial transaction device that morning. The Dowagiac man pleaded guilty to these two charges during an earlier appearance in court on April 13.

The charges stem from a police investigation that was started on Jan. 10, 2014, when the victim in this case, Brittany Gnatz, reported to authorities that her debit card was lost or stolen.

With the assistance of the victim, the police investigation determined that the card came into the possession of Lee, who used the stolen card to purchase a 50-inch television from the local Shopko store and to buy gasoline and a prepaid telephone card from the nearby Family Fare.

“I’m sure you knew when you got that card that it wasn’t yours,” Dodge said. “You knew it was wrong when you used it to buy those items.”

In all, Lee’s actions cost the institution that issued the card, Honor Credit, $890, Dodge said.

While the theft resulted in his first two felony convictions, Lee has had several encounters with law enforcement in the past, with seven misdemeanor charges on his record, many of which were related to theft, Dodge said. With none of these prior convictions resulting in incarceration, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik requested that the defendant serve a minimum of 30 days in jail for his actions.

On the other hand, Lee’s attorney, Daniel French, said that his client was upfront about his actions when confronted by law authority about it, saying that Lee returned the illegally-purchased TV. He said that Lee’s previous successful term of probation made it an appropriate sentence in this case as well.

The judge agreed with the defense, saying that a sentence outside of jail will make it easier for him to pay the $890 worth of restitution imposed as part of his punishment.

“You know that at some point, you can’t be guilty of stealing property, of using someone’s debit card without permission and say ‘oh well, I’ll give it back and return the money,’ and not have anything happen,” Dodge said. “There’s going to be some consequences.”