By Karen Hall
Two men from Florida who were arrested here nearly a year ago pled guilty to forgery charges last week and were sentenced to eight years in prison.
Giraldo Bersares Veloz, 37, and Pedro Manuel Garcia, 41, were arrested on Feb. 10 after lawmen observed them using what turned out to be fake credit cards to buy gift cards at the Lewisburg Wal-Mart. Veloz and Garcia had 87 credit cards and 59 gift cards with them in their SUV.
According to Lewisburg Detective Sgt. David Henley, the pair also bought gift cards in Georgia and East Tennessee, but they caught the eye of 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force agents when they used fake credit cards at the Shelbyville Wal-Mart.
There were 349 counts in the indictment against Garcia and Veloz, charging them with forgery, illegal possession or fraudulent use of a credit/debit card, criminal simulation, theft, and identity theft.
Documents in the case file do not reveal anything about the men's methods. In response to a request for discovery from defense attorneys, the prosecution reported Veloz "stated he did not want to talk with detectives about the case," while Garcia "stated that they had received the cards in the mail and thought it was alright to use them."
In the end, both pled guilty to eight counts of forgery, and were sentenced to a year on each count, to run one after the other. Each has a jail credit of 328 days. Veloz and Garcia will be eligible for a parole hearing after serving 30 percent of their sentence, or in about 18 months.
They could be facing charges in other jurisdictions.
At the time of the arrest, Henley said, "It's a pretty sophisticated operation. Other people are involved."
The men obtained "a lot" of money, the sergeant said.
The 2003 Ford Expedition was eventually returned to the Miami finance company that held the lien on it.
Veloz was represented by Lewisburg attorney Jheri Beth Rich, while Fletcher Long of Clarksville represented Garcia.