18-year-old pleads guilty to charging thousands in fraudulent credit card purchases

Dixie State University Police cruiser, St. George, Utah, Dec. 7, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man accused of purchasing several thousand dollars in merchandise using credit cards allegedly stolen from one of the off-campus dorm rooms in St. George pleaded guilty less than a week after his arrest which was the culmination of a months-long investigation.

2016 file photo for illustrative purposes only of the Campus View Suites at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, Oct. 19, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

On Wednesday, 18-year-old Nijerious Jahmad Keshef Mills appeared in 5th District Court for a review hearing. Mills has been charged with three third-degree felony charges, including one count of knowingly using a false financial transaction card for goods-services and two counts of  unlawful acquisition of a financial card.

Mills has been held without bail since his arrest Dec. 8. He appeared in court from Purgatory Correctional Facility via video.

Mills is accused of using several credit cards belonging to an individual who arrived in St. George during a visit to the area in October, and alleges the cards were taken from his backpack while he was staying with a Dixie State University student in one of the student housing complexes. During his stay, the report states, the suspect charged more than $3,700 using the visitor’s credit cards.

The investigation began when the Dixie State University Police Department received a call on the afternoon of Oct. 11, reporting that a fraud had possibly taken place at the Campus View Suites.

The caller told officers they were staying at the student housing complex with one of the dorm’s occupants during a 3-day visit to the area, and went on to say shortly after they arrived in St. George on Oct. 5, their credit cards had been used without their permission.

During the visit, the victim stated on Oct. 8, they woke up to a number of notifications on their cell phone notifying him that his credit card had been added to an Apple account that was then used to charge merchandise.

According to the report, the caller told authorities he found several fraudulent charges during a review of his accounts, including a two purchases totaling $200 to a clothing retailer, as well as more than $1,800 to Nike, $1,389 to Apple Pay and $377 to a sporting goods retailer. All told, more than $3,770 in merchandise was ordered using the visitor’s credit cards and all orders were scheduled for delivery.

The caller also told police that after receiving the notifications, he said he remembered leaving his wallet and keys in a backpack next to his friend’s desk inside of the dorm, adding that when he went to check on the backpack, he said he opened his wallet to find that his credit cards were in a different order than how he had left them, and said he also noticed that his wallet was not closed properly.

The caller said that is when he cancelled the cards and called police.

File photo of Dixie State University’s Campus View Suites II,
student-housing complex, St. George, Utah, Aug. 26, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Officers obtained the names of all occupants living in the dorm where the guest had been staying. They also contacted the housing manager in an effort to flag any packages that were scheduled for delivery.

Officers then discovered there was a second complex that may have been listed as a shipping address, so both buildings were monitored for package deliveries. Within days of the report, the police department learned that a tenant had been inquiring about a package delivery from the same sporting goods store the suspect used to order items using the stolen credit card.

The suspect was identified as Mills, who reportedly told the housing manager he had accidentally used the wrong building number for the Campus View Suites when he made the online order, which is why it was not delivered to the building where he lived, which the report states led officers to believe the suspect was attempting to separate himself from the fraudulent purchase.

The suspect also told the manager they were expecting two more packages from Nike that were scheduled to be delivered on Oct. 14.

Later that same day, officers were notified that a package was delivered to a woman in another dorm complex that appeared to be the girlfriend of Mills.

Officers also checked with Nike and learned of two deliveries that were scheduled to take place, which corroborated the suspect’s statement to the manager that he was expecting two more deliveries from Nike.

Based on information suggesting that Mills had “brief access to the card while the victim was staying in his apartment,” as well as the charges that turned up shortly thereafter the card holder’s visit and the charges showing up shortly thereafter, officers had enough probable cause to intercept the remaining packages that were scheduled to be delivered. They also obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s apartment.

On the day of the search, officers learned that a package had been delivered to the complex where the suspect’s girlfriend resided shortly before their arrival. Officers recovered the package that contained men’s clothing size extra-large, which was consistent with Mills. Officers described Mills as a 6-foot-4 man weighing 300 pounds. The shipping information also included a phone number and email address that matched Mills as well.

2019 file photo of Dixie State Police responding to 700 East Tabernacle, St. George, Utah, Oct. 22, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

On Oct. 14, officers were again advised a package had been delivered to the suspect’s housing unit from Nike that included the shipping address, name and cell phone number belonging to the suspect.

When the suspect arrived at the housing office to pick up the package he was interviewed by police.

Mills reportedly told officers he was aware of the incident involving the fraudulent use of the cards, saying he heard about it from another individual living in the unit.

The officer noted that Mills said “someone who stayed at his apartment said someone had used his cards to purchase items.”

Mills went on to say when the visitor left his wallet, laptop and his keys in the apartment, Mills said he thought to himself “who does that,” calling it a “red flag right there – because you can’t trust anybody with your stuff out.”

He also said he was with his girlfriend and both pretended not to have even seen it, and later, when the roommate brought the incident up, Mills said the roommate moved out of the room days later.

The suspect also went over the deliveries that were made between the two complexes, and while the orders using the stolen cards matched the items he had ordered that had already been delivered, he told police his roommate must have made the purchases and then had the items shipped to him.

Officers were able to confirm through a review of the records that all of the items shipped matched those that were allegedly ordered by the suspect, including shipping dates, amounts and item descriptions, leading officers to believe it was Mills who used the financial cards without permission from the visitor. On Dec. 8, officers arrested the suspect who was booked into jail in Washington County.

During Wednesday’s hearing before District Judge G. Michael Westfall, the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly using a false financial transaction card for goods-services and one count of  unlawful acquisition of a financial card, while the second unlawful acquisition charge will be dismissed under the terms of the plea agreement.

Washington County Prosecutor Ryan Shaum told St. George News the agreement is dependent upon the stipulation that Mills place $3,770 in a trust account held by his attorney, money that would serve as restitution to the victim in the case. There were other requirements as well, he said, that will be defined more thoroughly during the sentencing hearing scheduled to take place on Jan. 22.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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