PBSO deputy backs out of ID theft guilty plea; to take chance on trial


A former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy on Friday was allowed to recant his guilty pleas and will get a chance to persuade a jury that he didn’t use his access to law enforcement databases to propel a $250,000 identity theft scam.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks agreed to let former deputy Frantz Felisma withdraw his guilty pleas to charges of unauthorized use of credit cards and aggravated identity theft, and instead go to trial. In granting Felisma’s unusual request, Middlebrooks recalled the confusion that erupted in March when Felisma pleaded guilty to the two charges.

“He had difficulty admitting, perhaps to himself, that he intended to cause harm to others,” Middlebrooks wrote. But the judge warned that Felisma could face tougher punishment if he is found guilty by a jury.

Felisma, who was to be sentenced June 7, faced a mandatory two-year term in prison in addition to a possible 2½-year sentence.

Since the plea deal is off, he will face trial on charges of conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, unauthorized use of credit cards and four counts of aggravated identity theft. The charges are punishable by a maximum 23 years in prison.

During the March hearing, Felisma vacillated about his role in the identity theft scam. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Jorgensen said Felisma used law enforcement databases to get personal information about the owners of high-end cars. He provided the information to convicted swindler Kesner Joaseus, who used it to get credit cards in the owners’ names, she said.

Felisma, who in December was named Deputy of the Year of the Delray Beach district, repeatedly said he knew Joaseus was “a crook.” But he insisted he didn’t get any money. He wasn’t clear about how much he knew about the scheme.

Middlebrooks repeatedly told the conflicted former deputy that he shouldn’t plead guilty if he didn’t do anything wrong.

“Now, if you think you didn’t know that he was doing this and you were just doing it — I don’t know why you would do it, but if that’s your position — I’m not going to accept your plea and you ought to go to trial,” Middlebrooks said. “So you need to figure out what you did and what you didn’t do.”

After the judge gave Felisma time to talk privately with his attorney, Jason Kreiss, the seven-year deputy pleaded guilty to both charges. “I believe I did something wrong when I, when I gave him those information,” he told Middlebrooks.

Since then, Kreiss said, Felisma has had time to reflect. He insists he is innocent, Kreiss wrote in court papers. People are allowed to withdraw pleas before they are sentenced, he wrote.

Joaseus told agents Felisma gave him the information he needed to get the phony credit cards. Expected to be called to testify against Felisma, the 47-year-old Wellington man in March was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the identity theft scheme and an unrelated rental scam.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

NEW: Search for Boynton Beach police chief officially begins
NEW: Search for Boynton Beach police chief officially begins

The search for Boynton Beach’s next police chief has officially begun. The position was posted Feb. 13 on the Strategic Government Resources website. Those interested have until April 2 to apply, according to the post. Whoever is chosen will lead 155 officers, 53 non-sworn employees and...
NEW: Artist creates inspirational mural on Boynton Beach building
NEW: Artist creates inspirational mural on Boynton Beach building

The side of a building on East Ocean Avenue is now a little brighter and even inspirational thanks to Northwood Village artist Craig McInnis . McInnis, a freelance artist, spent a couple of weeks creating the “Set Free” mural, which he completed Feb. 13. It’s on the building at 636 E. Ocean Ave., where...
UPDATE: Omni Middle students in Boca walk out; two schools ask students not to walk out
UPDATE: Omni Middle students in Boca walk out; two schools ask students not to walk out

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: About 200 students from Omni Middle School in Boca Raton jumped their fence and started walking in protest chanting “We want change!” and are holding signs for gun control. Student at Omni range in age from 11 to 14 years old. They said they were inspired by students at West Boca Raton High School.   Omni...
Boynton Beach things to do: Coffee with a cop, Dr. Seuss reading
Boynton Beach things to do: Coffee with a cop, Dr. Seuss reading

Things to do this weekend in Boynton Beach 1- Coffee With a Cop The Boynton Beach Police Department is hosting this free event at McDonald’s on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at 1810 S. Federal Highway. Residents can meet with police officers and ask questions, voice concerns and get to know them. 2- Boating class The U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary...
NEW: Police say Hugo Selva, Boynton shooting victim had sold marijuana
NEW: Police say Hugo Selva, Boynton shooting victim had sold marijuana

11:15 a.m. UPDATE: Hugo Selva and the man police say he shot in Boynton Beach previously sold marijuana to one another, according to city police records released Wednesday. But the two hadn’t seen one another in about four years, Anthony Fonti told police after he was shot. 911 CALL: Hear the call following Hugo Steven Selva’s Boynton Beach...
More Stories