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La Porte traffic stop leads to counterfeit card bust

LA PORTE COUNTY, Ind. -

A man is behind bars after a regular traffic stop Saturday turned into the biggest case of counterfeit credit cards the sheriff has ever seen. He says traffic stops turned criminal arrests are becoming more common.

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd says they’ve increased enforcement on Highway 20 after the deadly crashes kept mounting.

One of the most recent cases involves 32-year-old Norman Smith, who appeared for his first hearing Monday morning.

“Saturday evening at about 6:30 central time, one of our deputies, Jonathan Samuelson was patrolling US Highway 20…when he clocked a vehicle that was speeding east on highway 20 and performed a traffic stop,” said Sheriff Boyd.

As Deputy Samuelson was speaking with the driver and passenger, he noticed a strong smell of marijuana.

As he looked more closely, he saw a bunch of credit cards sitting near the center of the car.

Deputies ended up finding 54 credit cards, none of which contained either suspect’s name, more than 22 cartons of Newport cigarettes, and three grams of pot.

“I’ve been in law enforcement in La Porte County for nearly 29 years now, and I don’t recall a volume that large…That’s a lot of counterfeited credit cards,” said Sheriff Boyd.

The passenger, 32 year-old Norman Smith—fled down a bank when deputies tried to handcuff him. They caught up and arrested him—but let the driver go—because he was cooperating.

Smith is facing the following charges:

  • Fraud, a level 6 felony
  • Identity deception, a level 6 felony
  • Counterfeiting, a level 6 felony
  • Counterfeiting a government document, an “A” misdemeanor
  • False identity statement, an “A” misdemeanor
  • Resisting law enforcement, an “A” misdemeanor, and
  • Possession of marijuana, a “B” misdemeanor.

 “The bigger point of this is this just shows that there is a lot more going on on Highway 20 than people just breaking traffic infractions, but often times it’s traffic infractions that lead to bigger cases and criminal arrests as well,” said Sheriff Boyd.

So far this year, the sheriff says his deputies have made well over 1,000 stops on Highway 20.

“It seems rather innocuous, someone going 61 miles per hour in a 55 zone. However, look what it turned into…We have a whole host of issues that we’re routinely bringing people in jail for, and it happens on a weekly basis, several times a week in fact,” said Sheriff Boyd.

As suspects speed by, deputies are keeping an eye out for ‘regular cases’ that could become criminal.

He’s also wanted in Illinois and Wisconsin for failure to appear, and has an extensive criminal history with charges that include:

  • credit card forgery
  • armed robbery
  • resisting arrest
  • unauthorized use of an identity
  • theft
  • aggravated battery with a firearm
  • possession of a controlled substance, and
  • operating while intoxicated.

Smith’s next court date is set for June 13.

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