Day 4: Onyeri friend details credit card skimming scheme

Sketch - Chimene Onyeri - Day 2

Jurors watched videos of Chimene Onyeri joyfully sifting through wads of hundred dollar bills as testimony continued Thursday in an ongoing federal trial. Onyeri is accused of orchestrating the 2015 assassination attempt of Travis County District Court Judge Julie Kocurek.

From card skimming at ATMs to buying hundreds of dollars in gift cards with stolen information, details about a money-making operation were at the center of Thursday’s testimony, which only saw one witness on the stand.

Prosecution initially began questioning 30-year-old Bernard N. Akwar, an associate of Onyeri, on Wednesday, and continued Thursday, when the defense cross-examined him.

Akwar said he and Onyeri, along with a third individual from the United Kingdom, were involved in a failed ATM scheme that involved the use of 3-D printers and working with welders who helped them find ways to attach cameras onto ATMs in an effort to obtain card and pin numbers.

“It was just a number of things that didn’t go right,” Akwar testified.

He said that included thinking they pressed record on the cameras when they hadn’t, to bad angles on the cameras, which in turn didn’t allow them to get a clear view and good read on the cards.

Both Akwar and Onyeri were aspiring rappers, and while Akwar said he’s had legitimate jobs on and off, he’s never known Onyeri to have a job.

When using stolen information to purchase gift cards, Akwar said sometimes he purchased the cards alone, but sometimes with Onyeri. He said he tried to eye a good cashier and would make up stories for the purchases, such as he’s purchasing them for a wedding or a baby shower.

Akwar said they couldn’t buy the cards in bulk or it would cause suspicion. He said they wouldn’t buy more than two gift cards at a time. The highest amount they’d put on a gift card was $500 and the least was around $100.

When using stolen information to purchase cards, Akwar says he’d never present his real ID if asked by a cashier, but he would present a fake ID and it would work. Sometimes he’d say he didn’t have an ID and the sale would go through without an ID.

As Thursday’s testimony wrapped up, the defense asked Akwar how many times he’s spoken with the prosecution team. Akwar says more than five, less than 15. He was then asked how many times Akwar and defense have talked and Akwar says never.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. on Monday.

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