- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Two New York men have pleaded guilty to credit card fraud after police found a batch of fake credit cards during a June 2015 traffic stop in New Albany.

Quin Li and Zhang Yongdi entered guilty pleas Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Debra Brown in Oxford. Both men face up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. They could also be ordered to repay what they stole.

Six people were pulled over in a Chevrolet Tahoe after a highway patrolman was told by a Lowe’s employee that two men had fled after trying to buy gift cards with suspect credit cards. Two New Albany officers went to the stop and one searched the SUV after one of the occupants offered to translate and the officer thought he had gotten consent. The officer found about 50 credit cards inside two white socks, and after officers got a card scanner, they found the information on the magnetic strips didn’t match the names on the cards.

After arresting the occupants, officers obtained a search warrant and found more questionable credit cards, along with a number of gift cards that appeared to have been bought with the credit cards.

The defendants had asked Brown to suppress evidence from the first search, saying officers later realized Zhang wasn’t understanding what they were saying despite an offer by another occupant of the car to translate from English to Chinese for Zhang.

That, the defendants argued, meant Zhang couldn’t have given informed consent to the roadside search that turned up the credit cards. Brown agreed with that argument, but ruled the search was legal anyway because officers have a lower threshold to search vehicles without a warrant, and said that they had probable cause to go ahead after the store employee reported suspicions to the highway patrolman.

As part of the plea, Li and Yongdi reserved the right to appeal the search to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two others, Jixian Zhu and Dong Lin, pleaded guilty to similar federal charges in June. They were sentenced to time served in jail and three years’ probation. They were also ordered to repay $7,165 investigators say was stolen from four Mississippi banks.

Li and Yongdi will be sentenced later.


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