Crime

Man charged with 27 counts of identity theft

An individual is facing multiple felony charges after allegedly attempting to fraudulently purchase cellphones at the Nittany Mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed by State College police, officers responded Jan. 7 to the Best Buy Mobile store in the mall for a report of a male attempting to fraudulently add phones to an existing wireless account.

The store clerk had been previously contacted by a fellow clerk at a Best Buy in Blair County, police said, who said two Hispanic males had entered the store and obtained multiple phones using fake identification. The clerk also described the men.

The mall clerk recognized the men, police said, and reported they had tried to add three Apple iPhone 7s valued at $870 each to the account . Officers arrived before the transaction was completed and arrested the men.

The first man was identified as Raybet Melendez, police said, who was charged with three felony counts of identity theft, theft by deception and forgery.

The second man was identified as Sergio Morando, 49, who claimed he is a Cuban citizen in the U.S. on a visa, police said. Driver’s licenses from Illinois, Maryland and Texas were reportedly discovered on him.

A search warrant executed on Morando’s cellphone revealed 27 separate identities, as well as communications with other unknown suspects sharing the information, police said. The identities included names, addresses, dates of birth, partial social security numbers and phone numbers.

An officer was able to contact one of the names on the list, police said, who stated his AT&T cellphone account was compromised on Dec. 24.

Morando was arraigned Wednesday by District Judge Carmine Prestia, according to court documents, and charged with 27 felony counts of identity theft and one felony charge of conspiracy to commit identity theft. Bail was set at $250,000.

A preliminary hearing is slated for March 22.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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