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Credit-Card Crimes, Larceny Yield Jail

Shewaye Yemane came to court Friday lookin' good. Her hair was perfectly coiffed, and her chocolate-brown suit was right in fashion.

But when she left — after being sentenced to jail for buying stylish clothing with someone else's credit card — she looked rattled. She also wore a new accessory around her wrists — a locking pair of metal handcuffs.

Pearl necklaces and Cartier perfume — it was nothing but the best for Yemane, of 12304 Field Lark Lane in Fairfax's Pender community. And before she was caught sticky-fingered, shoplifting from the Tysons Corner Neiman Marcus, she'd treated herself to nearly $4,000 worth of merchandise courtesy of the stolen credit card.

Fairfax County police initially charged her with 11 crimes. All but three charges were eventually dropped, and July 19 in Circuit Court, she pleaded guilty to credit-card theft, credit-card fraud and grand larceny. She returned Friday for sentencing and was given 15 days in jail.

In July, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Ben'Ary explained the case against Yemane. "She was caught concealing lingerie items in a fitting room at Nieman Marcus," he said. "They stopped her outside the store and found $258 in merchandise on her person."

And in a Sept. 9, 2003 affidavit for a warrant to search Yemane's home, Det. B.S. Walley, a retail crimes investigator with the McLean District Station, provided further details.

He wrote that, on Aug. 29, 2003, he responded to the Neiman Marcus store at 2001 International Drive in McLean, regarding a shoplifter in custody. He spoke with Tim Holloman, a Neiman Marcus loss-prevention agent, and learned that the shoplifter was Yemane.

"Police searched her vehicle in the parking lot and recovered some Neiman Marcus property," said Ben'Ary. "Then, in a search of her home, police recovered additional items."

But shoplifting was just one of Yemane's illegal activities, he told Judge Stanley Klein. "Investigation revealed that she had made charges on a Neiman Marcus charge card in someone else's name," he said. "She used it 11 times, [making purchases totaling] about $3,900."

However, she initially denied any wrongdoing with the credit card. "After she'd been read her Miranda rights, she stated she took the items from the fitting room," said Ben'Ary. "She said she had permission to use the credit card, but the victim said she didn't know the defendant and had not given her permission."

In his affidavit, Walley noted that Yemane also committed a felony concealment of merchandise on Aug. 23. He wrote that "[she] was observed stealing a red, Burberry-brand skirt valued at $290. Yemane was not stopped on that date. She later admitted to [me] that she stole the skirt and [it's] at her home."

The detective further learned that, in a one-week period from July 29-Aug. 4, 2003, "Yemane purchased merchandise in excess of $3,000 from Neiman Marcus by using a store credit account in the name of Teruberhan Fentike." After examining Fentike's credit-card statement, he discovered that her card was used to buy clothing, perfume, handbags and jewelry.

He obtained a search warrant to look for these items in Yemane's townhouse. They included a Louis Vuitton purse, change purse, planner and makeup case, plus La Mer face cream, lotion and makeup. On Sept. 10, police seized a Louis Vuitton purse and handbag, seven La Mer items, a Majorica pearl necklace, Neiman Marcus pearl necklace, Cartier perfume, an overdraft letter and three credit documents.

Police arrested Yemane, Aug. 29, charging her with nine crimes — three grand larcenies with a credit card, three frauds with a credit card, two grand larcenies and one identity fraud. She was released, Aug. 30, but was arrested again on Sept. 9 and charged with two more offenses — fraud with a credit card and grand larceny with a credit card.

Nonetheless, when she came to court Friday, she fully expected to receive probation for her deeds since that's what the state sentencing-guidelines came out to, in her case. And she planned to make full restitution to the victim.

However, between her guilty pleas and her sentencing, Yemane was supposed to help her probation officer develop a pre-sentencing report about her. And, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ted Sibert, "The defendant wasn't exactly prompt in providing information to the probation office."

"That is a concern to me, also," said her attorney, Kathleen Brown. "But I'd suggest that she receive mental-health counseling because she's shown signs of depression. She wants it, and I believe it would be appropriate in this case."

But Judge Klein believed Yemane needed something more — and he gave it to her. "When you were before me last time, I told you I'd let you remain out on bond, provided you comply with [certain] conditions," he told the young woman. Included was cooperating with the probation officer in preparing the pre-sentencing report.

Furthermore, one statement of Yemane's in this report was particularly troubling to Klein. "You said you thought you didn't do anything wrong — and that you thought a friend of a friend authorized you to make $3,724 in credit-card purchases to buy things you didn't absolutely need."

"This shows me that you didn't take responsibility for what you did, and you still don't," continued the judge. "So that it's absolutely clear how serious this is, on each of the three charges, the court sentences you to two years in prison."

Klein then suspended all but 15 days of those sentences and ran them concurrently. He also placed Yemane on two years active probation and ordered her to receive mental-health counseling and make full restitution. Since she has a full-time job, he allowed her to serve her time on weekends.

But, he warned her, "When your probation officer tells you to jump, you jump. This takes precedence above all else. I want to make sure you take this very seriously. And I assure you that, if you fail to do this, the next time you come back in front of me, you'll be sent to the Virginia state penitentiary."

The judge then remanded Yemane to the custody of the sheriff, telling her, "You are to begin serving your jail time now." And with that, the bailiff handcuffed her and led her away.