Hotel credit card operation shut down

Hotel credit card operation shut down

ROHNERT PARK, SONOMA COUNTY – Five people had set up quite a little operation at a hotel in Rohnert Park. They had a collection of stolen credit cards and blank credit cards, a credit card reader, several laptop computers. They also had some cash, and a bit of methamphetamine and smoking paraphernalia.

They had quite a game going, too. They had already rented a couple of Mercedes Benz cars with a false credit card, and had not returned them, and are suspected of using the cards to gain cash and other merchandise. They were caught, however, when two of them tried the same method to get some cash. According to the Sonoma Sheriff’s Office, last Friday night one of the five went into nearby Graton Casino and tried to withdraw cash from an ATM machine using one of the fraudulent cards. That person (not specifically identified) was arrested. Later that night, at 2:30 am, another one of them tried the same thing, and was also arrested. Investigation into the pair, who were by then linked together, led to the discovery of the hotel room operation.

Jhona Mathews

Jhona Mathews

The arresting deputy contacted the Sheriff’s property crimes detectives, who followed up at the hotel room. When they discovered the operation, they arrested the remaining members of the crime ring. Including the first two arrests, they took into custody Jhona Mathews, 33 of Walnut Creek, Zephyr Carter, 41 of Hayward, Michael Anger, 32, Robert Serrato, 37, and Nicole Dunlap, 30, all of San Francisco.

Jhona Mathews has been in the news headlines before. She was involved in a notable sex scandal involving the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in San Francisco. Mathews had served 10 days in jail in September of last year for fraudulent use of a credit card. In November she was working as a secretary for the church, but was fired from that job when the information about her arrest came to light. She then filed a lawsuit alleging that her termination had to do instead with a sexual relationship she had been involved in with her supervisor, Bill McLaughlin, a volunteer at the church and chairman of the church board.

Mathews stated that she was forced to have sex with McLaughlin from the outset of her employment, including incidents in the sacristy, and spankings with a wooden paddle. She claims she was fired on November 6 after breaking off the relationship. Also involved in the scandal was a reported $100,000 embezzlement that both she was suspected of, and she in turn placed the blame on McLaughlin. That case is still pending. The San Francisco Examiner also reported a past history of Mathews of drug abuse and arrests, and even an instance of her living at a house raided by the FBI for a counterfeiting operation.

Zephyr Carter (Facebook)

Zephyr Malik Carter (Facebook)

Zephyr Makik Carter has had his own recent run in with the law. He was picked up by Berkeley Police on January 20 of this year and charged with possession of a controlled substance, giving false information to a police officer, unauthorized use of another person’s ID, and 17 counts of grand theft for stolen credit cards. Michael Dean Anger was arrested on December 7 for possession of a controlled substance and possession for sale by the Vallejo Police. Nicole Dunlap was arrested twice recently. She was arrested by Alameda Sheriffs on November 8 for possession and sale of controlled substances, and then on March 20 in Cupertino for the same charges along with unlawful use of a drivers license.

This team of five, at least four of whom had recent criminal experience including drugs, forgery and credit card theft, banded together with big plans to make some money and apparently enjoy some stimulants. (No recent incidents from Robert Serrato could be found.) What they must not have anticipated, however, was that the ATM security at the Graton Casino would allow the resort’s internal cash machines to detect their fraudulent transactions and alert the staff to the attempt, which led to the capture of two of them within hours of each other.

All five of the ill-fated team were arrested and charged with forgery, theft of credit card info, altering credit cards, manufacturing false ID documents, burglary, possession of stolen access (ATM) cards, theft of credit or other identification, giving false identity to a peace officer, vehicle theft and possession of stolen vehicles, possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia, and finally, tying it all together, conspiracy. Some were also charged with various parole violations and outstanding warrants. They were all booked into Sonoma County jail. Investigators continue to work out the details, and are seeking other potential victims.

Read More:

The Examiner: Woman at center of SF church sex scandal was fired for prior criminal offense

Hotel credit card operation shut down was last modified: April 8th, 2014 by admin
Categories: San Francisco, Sonoma

Comments

  1. Tim Hewtson
    Tim Hewtson 16 April, 2014, 19:33

    Ken,

    In terms of the National Shrine of St. Francis and the allegations made by Jhona Mathews, we are going way beyond a ‘Sex Scandal at the Shrine’ to a conspiracy to defraud the Shrine, the Archdiocese and the Catholic Church as a whole.

    The way I got acquainted with the events was the the Shrine asked for volunteers to docent at the Shrine / the Porziuncola.

    I knew none of the background – that the Shrine viewed the Knights of St. Francis as an invidious cult – only that they wanted people to give some of their time to docent. I love the Shrine and it’s community, and thought I should play my part.

    My first day of docenting, one Knight told me how the Knights hated Msgr. Tarantino and were praying for his death. They also hated Bill McLaughlin. I may be a man of the world, having lived in four countries and observed many strange customs, but I was shocked. Praying for the death of an eminent member of the Catholic Church just didn’t seem either Christian or decent by anybody’s values.

    Then, a few weeks later, the Knight suddenly started muttering about sex crimes in the Catholic Church, which turned out to be a day before Jhona Mathews was dismissed by the Shrine for alleged fraudulent acts. A day before.

    Then Jhona Mathews claimed that she had been forced to indulge in sexual activity on Shrine property, and the two people implicated were – would you guess? – Bill McLaughlin and Msgr. Tarantino.

    Now, I have some faith in the benefits of serendipity, but I am very suspicious of coincidence. How was it that the Knights were screaming about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church a few days before a Jhona Mathews made her allegations?

    Something strange was happening, and I never believed that Bill McLaughlin and Jhona Mathews were having sex in the Sacristy of the Shrine.

    What emerged was that Bill McLaughlin had encouraged the Shrine to employ Jhona, probably because he fancied her, and that he had indeed had a sexual relationship with her. He was aware that Jhona had a ‘past,’ but I think that was in relationship to drugs, not embezzlement.

    But then Bill got suspicious. Jhona told him she had rented a car using somebody else’s driver’s license. She also seemed to be spending far more money than her income would have suggested she could afford. Whatever their relationship, he was on her case.

    Then there was the issue of Jhona taking 10 days off work, supposedly suffering from pneumonia, but actually in prison for embezzlement. Then the identity of a former administrator was stolen, cleaning out her bank account, and I suspect a certain amount of money was embezzled from the Archdiocese, as the Shrine has no money.

    So the boom was coming down on Jhona. She just couldn’t resist appropriating other people’s money.

    Then something strange happened. Somebody knew that Jhona was about to be dismissed for fraud. They also discovered that Jhona had been involved in a relationship with Bill.

    Now, that there was a relationship between an employee of the Shrine, however kinky, and a volunteer at the Shrine, isn’t much of a story, but if Jhona could allege that this affair took place on a Church property? That it was blatant abuse of an employee? Now we are talking.

    Imagine the proposition to Jhona – you can go down for yet another embezzlement, or you can turn this on the Church and get millions of damages for being abused … All you have to say is that you were abused on Church property. Mmmm, tasty.

    That must have been attractive to Jonah. Just avoiding further charges would have been good, but a share of millions of dollars?

    So the big question is who put her up to this?

    The temptation is to look to the Knights, but although some Knights got over-excited by Jhona’s accusations, the leadership of the Knights stood well clear. While they were daily enthusiastic in attacking the Shrine for every trivial thing – water on the Porziuncola steps when it was raining etc. – their leadership never openly exulted over Jhona’s accusations. You could say this was a Sherlock Holmes case of the dog that didn’t bark, but I am guessing that the Knights weren’t directly involved in this particular scam; that they even saw it as dangerous and prone to misfire.

    So who persuaded Jhona to generate her preposterous allegations that can easily be proven to have been impossible, even beyond the fact that her descriptions of sex in the Sacristy are demonstrably false in their details?

    Now, that is a question – who and why? Who hated Bill McLaughlin so much that they persuaded Jhona to come up with a pack of lies about being sexually abused in the Sacristy of the Shrine? Who saw an opportunity to gain from this? Well, a share of the putative winnings from Jhona’s legal case would certainly have been mouth-watering, but was there more?

    And then we have the disappearance of police files relating to investigations into embezzlement from the Shrine and the stealing of the former administrator’s identity? Who had the power to do that, because when the police in Sonoma looked up Jhona’s record, nothing was showing. And yet, as we all know, such investigations are logged against the perpetrator’s social security number – they come up immediately.

    So, I reckon we are going far beyond ‘Sex scandal at the Shrine’ to a clear case of an attempt to defraud the Shrine, the Archdiocese and the Catholic Church at large of millions of dollars – and I don’t believe Jhona was the primary mover in this scam. She simply isn’t that intelligent.

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