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Alleged credit card swindlers in court

A Modesto man and woman will stand trial for allegedly conducting a large credit card fraud scheme, with many of the transactions occurring in Tuolumne County.

At a preliminary hearing in Tuolumne County Superior Court on Friday, Judge Eleanor Provost ordered that Jeremy Keturi, 35, and Shatece Turner, 29, be held to answer to all charges. 

The District Attorney’s Office charged the defendants with 24 felonies — one count of identity theft and one count of commercial burglary for each transaction in the county. 

They were initially charged with 22 counts but Provost granted a motion Friday from Deputy District Attorney Clint Parish to add two more for a transaction that was not included in the original complaint. 

The Sonora Police Department discovered 12 transactions at nine area businesses: Earth and Ocean Boardshop, Shell, PetSmart, Baskin-Robbins, Applebee’s, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Safeway, Beauty Nails and Walmart.

The transactions totaled more than $2,000, although investigators believe the alleged crooks received more than $100,000 worth of ill-gotten goods and services from several counties. 

Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson said investigators have discovered fraudulent transactions in at least four counties — Tuolumne, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced.

He said Keturi and Turner could be prosecuted by the district attorney’s office in each county.

Police began investigating the scheme on Feb. 10, when a Ventura identity theft victim contacted Sonora police. She said her card had been used at several Tuolumne County businesses on Feb. 9 and 10, but she was still in possession of her card.

Sonora police obtained transaction records and surveillance footage from the businesses and presented photo lineups — all pointing to Keturi and Turner as suspects. 

Modesto and Sonora police searched their Espana Drive home on Feb. 13 and found about $10,000 worth of property believed to have been purchased with counterfeit cards.

Items found inside the house that were apparently purchased in Sonora included a terrarium and bearded dragon lizard from PetSmart, two snowboards from Earth and Ocean Boardshop, an ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins and two bottles of Pinnacle Vodka from Safeway, officer Andrew Theodore testified. 

Police said they also found:

• credit card receipts totaling more than $100,000, dating back to June 2012.

• at least 20 cards imprinted with Jeremy Keturi’s name and different card numbers.

• 500 credit card blanks with magnetic strips, an embosser and a credit card skimmer.

• lists of people’s names, birthdays and Social Security numbers.

Defense attorney Alonzo Gradford, of Modesto, argued that Turner was not seen physically swiping the card and there was no proof as to who placed the evidence inside the home.

Theodore said the credit card manufacturing items were found in the master bedroom, where Turner appeared to be living. Police located bills and other documents in Turner’s name and female clothing inside the bedroom.

Theodore also testified that Turner was captured on video at several businesses accompanying Keturi as he allegedly swiped the card, and had an active role in selecting the items purchased at PetSmart.

The Beauty Nails transaction is still under investigation, Theodore testified. 

“All of the evidence shows that this is a conspiracy,” Parish countered.

Both defendants are out of custody on bail.

Turner posted $30,000 at Tuolumne County Jail on March 14. She had a warrant out for her arrest but appeared in court that day for Keturi’s scheduled arraignment. She was arraigned and remanded into custody.

Keturi posted $75,000 bail at Stanislaus County Jail on Feb. 13. He was arrested by Modesto police and booked on several charges including grand theft, burglary, identity theft and conspiracy.

They will be re-arraigned at 1:30 p.m. April 8 in Department 1. 

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