CANANDAIGUA — The man who swallowed a diamond ring earlier this year pleaded guilty to numerous charges Monday in Ontario County Court.
Rahkeim Scarlett, 33, pleaded guilty to felony charges of attempted grand larceny, identity theft, criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of stolen property.
Judge William Kocher will sentence Scarlett to 5 to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 17.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Scarlett, of Troy, Rensselaer County, in February at Eastview Mall in Victor. Scarlett tried to buy a Rolex watch for $28,000 and a pair of diamond earrings for $2,000 from Mann’s Jewelers.
District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo said Scarlett produced a purported Capital One credit card in his name and it initially cleared electronically, but the salesperson felt there was something wrong so she called Capital One and learned there was no record of such an account.
Scarlett eventually left the store, leaving the card behind. He was found hiding in a nearby snowbank and taken into custody.
The initial investigation revealed the account number of the credit card Scarlett had was the number of a Chase Bank account assigned to a couple in Rochester.
“What Scarlett used was a forged, or cloned, credit card,” Tantillo said.
At the time of his arrest, Scarlett was wearing an expensive Rolex watch and a large men’s diamond ring. As he was being booked, sheriff’s office personnel noticed he was no longer wearing the ring; when asked about it, Scarlett said he hid it in the police car and later threw it into the snow when entering the jail.
However, when officers viewed the video recording of Scarlett in a room where he had been placed, they saw him swallowing the ring. He was taken to Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua and X-rayed; the ring was spotted in his colon.
A doctor said the ring didn’t pose a health risk and would pass through his digestive system. Scarlett was placed in a cell without a flushing toilet, and the ring eventually was recovered by a corrections officer.
Scarlett had bought the ring in January for $4,700 at a jewelry store in Albany. Tantillo said Scarlett used another forged credit card that had been encoded with the legitimate account information of a woman who lived in the capital region.
Similarly, it was determined the Rolex watch Scarlett wore at the time of his arrest was purchased for $7,150 at a jewelry store in Syracuse in February — with another forged credit card, this time using the legitimate account information of a woman who lived in the Syracuse area.
Kocher had ruled that Scarlett could represent himself at trial. He pleaded guilty before jury selection began.
Scarlett is being held in the county jail without bail until he is sentenced.
Tantillo said Scarlett also was indicted last week in Albany County on 14 counts of similar conduct. Investigations in other jurisdictions are also ongoing, Tantillo added.
“I believe that, all told in all jurisdictions, he has stolen well more than $100,000 in jewelry in this fashion,” Tantillo said.
Tantillo noted the issue of cloned credit cards is an increasing problem. Professional thieves get access to financial records from a variety of illicit sources, some through the much-publicized massive data breaches and data thefts that have occurred at major, national retailers over the past several years.
“They can then encode specific account information on the magnetic strips on legitimate cards, such as gift cards you can buy anywhere,” Tantillo explained. “Also, using sophisticated equipment, they can emboss the cards with any name they want.
“In this case, Scarlett and whoever else he was working with accessed credit card information of innocent victims who had high lines of credit, and then made purchases just under the maximum credit limit.”