Officer discovers device, drugs during traffic stop; 3 face felony charges

HANCOCK COUNTY — A local police officer found a credit card skimmer in a Maryland man’s truck during a traffic stop this month, according to court documents. Now the man and two friends who were in the car with him each face felony charges, records show.

Hancock County Sheriff Deputy Nick Ernstes stopped a pickup truck for speeding along Interstate 70 in early December. Ernstes said that while talking with the three men inside the vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from within the car.

The officer searched the vehicle, according to court documents. Inside, he found drugs and what appeared to be stolen credit cards and identification cards along with the skimming device that’s used to make them, according court documents.

Now, the three men riding inside the pickup truck face felony charges of fraud and drug possession.

The driver, 28-year-old Chernor Alie Jah, and his two passengers, 33-year-old Chukwudi Nwigwe and 27-year-old Muhammed Munjuru Jah, Jr., each face: one Level 6 felony count of possession of an electronic skimmer device; one Level 6 felony count of fraud; and one Class B misdemeanor of possession of marijuana.

Each man’s case has been filed in Hancock County Superior Court 2.

Ernstes works with the Pro-Active Criminal Enforcement, or PACE, team, a multi-agency task force that patrols Interstate 70 from Marion County to the Ohio line. He stopped the pickup truck in question on the afternoon of Dec. 5 on westbound I-70 at nearly mile marker 95, court documents state.

The truck was driving roughly 75 miles per hour — faster than the posted speed limit of 70 mph, Ernstes wrote in charging documents filed with the county prosecutor’s office.

Ernstes approached the vehicle and began speaking with the men inside. They said they were driving from Maryland to visit family in Indianapolis.

During the conversations, Ernstes said he could smell marijuana coming from within the car, court documents state. He asked the men to exit the vehicle so that it could be searched, court documents state.

Inside the truck, the officer found a metal grinder containing a plant-like substance that looked and smelled like marijuana, court documents state. He also found a small pouch containing a credit card skimmer and several credit cards and Maryland identification cards, court documents state.

Ernstes later tested the credit cards and discovered they were fraudulent, court documents state.

The three men were released from police custody but were warned that criminal charges would be filed against them, court documents state.

Each had a warrant for his arrest pending at press time, court records show.

The Level 6 felony counts each defendant faces carries a penalty range of six months to 2½ years. The Class B misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.