In Geneseo, separate instances of cash, debit fraud spur police investigation

Following the use of a stolen debit card at Starbucks in the MacVittie College Union on Sunday Nov. 2, Campus Auxiliary Services will ask for increased identification with purchases at all of its establishments. Starbucks barista senior Amadimo Belleh was serving customers following the theft when she received an order from non-Geneseo student Karina Markella-Nicolakis.

The order consisted of a coffee mug and three iced drinks, totaling $27. Belleh asked the woman if she was using her meal plan to purchase these items, to which Markella-Nicolakis responded she would use her debit card, as she wasn’t a student here.

Markella-Nicolakis’ calm manner did not alarm Belleh so she said she proceeded with the transaction using the card Markella-Nicolakis presented. Shortly after, a male student came forward and questioned whether or not someone made a transaction of $27 within the past half hour. This was when Belleh realized the card Markella-Nicolakis used was stolen.

The unidentified male student explained to Belleh that someone had stolen his card and used it at Letchworth Dining Hall. While he was cancelling his card, the Starbucks transaction came up. Belleh then took down the information of the victim.

As her shift continued, a customer Belleh described as a shorter girl with long brown hair joined the line, and tried to buy a Starbucks coffee cup and a tea canister.

The Geneseo student, later identified by Assistant Chief of the University Police Department Scott Kenney as freshman Crystal Ponce, had placed the items on the counter and presented the stolen card when Belleh noticed the male student’s name on the card. Belleh then asked for identification, and Ponce became flustered, leaving Starbucks without making the purchase to get the identification from her friend.

Belleh said she grew nervous when the girls didn’t return, but knowing University Police was on its way to take down her statement, she went to Corner Pocket to see if the girls were still there.

“I want to emphasize that she was very causal and very calm in contrast to her brunette friend who was very flustered,” Belleh said.

Lisa Spamer, store manager of Starbucks, entered the Corner Pocket and stayed with the girls until UPD arrived. An officer arrived and questioned Spamer, who later identified Markella-Nicolakis as the one who successfully used the debit card.

The two girls were then arrested and taken to Livingston County Jail. According to Kenney, Markella-Nicolakis was charged with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and Ponce was charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree.

“In my four years in Geneseo, this has never happened but this guy was very proactive and did what he could to retrieve his card,” Belleh said.

After this incident, Belleh said that all CAS facilities are asking for identification with every debit card purchase.

“I think that these type of preemptive actions should be taken because this incident makes it obvious to check because yes, a non-Geneseo student used the card, but it was a Geneseo student who tried to use the card again,” Belleh said.

This was the only monetary issue in the Geneseo area recently. This week Main Street business owners received an email from Geneseo Village Police Chief Eric Osganian regarding a young adult male who used fake twenty dollar bills to purchase items at the local Wegmans and 7/11 stores.

“We have identified the suspects involved in the incident that we had involving the $20 bills,” Osganian said. “However, we are not done investigating it. Things are moving rather fast once the suspect’s picture was sent out. I would like to wait until we can finish doing the interviews before releasing anymore information.”