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Fire dept. medic who stole debit card from dead man wants lighter sentence

Michael John Harcharik used the card to make $11,217 in purchases and cash withdrawals

By Edmundo Carrillo
Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE, N.M. — A former Santa Fe city government paramedic convicted of stealing a dead man’s debit card while on the job and racking up more than $11,000 in charges now wants a lighter sentence, according to a motion filed in Santa Fe District Court in May.

In January, Michael John Harcharik, 32, pleaded no contest to one count of identity theft and three counts of violating the Remote Financial Services Act – all fourth-degree felonies – and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Harcharik stole 76-year-old Allan Pearson’s debit card, which may have had the personal identification number (PIN) written on the back, from a wallet on a table at Pearson’s home on March 25, 2016, after Harcharik’s fire department unit responded to Pearson’s unattended death.

Harcharik then used the card to make $11,217 in purchases and cash withdrawals, according to Santa Fe police, and even wore his fire department uniform and was driving a city ambulance during one of the fraudulent shopping trips.

Harcharik’s attorney, Dan Marlowe, has filed a motion asking state District Judge Matthew Wilson to grant Harcharik a conditional discharge, which would drop the felony convictions after successful completion of his probation. The motion argues that Harcharik is stuck with a felony record for a “momentary lapse in good judgment,” a “consequence far beyond the gravity of the offense.”

Prosecutor Peter Valencia, in a court response, said Harcharik’s crimes were not a single judgment lapse, but a series of criminal actions because he used Pearson’s card about 50 times between March 25 and April 8, 2016. Harcharik bought a riding lawn mower, car parts, a humidifier, dog food and shoes for his wife.

Marlowe previously asked the judge to impose a conditional discharge at Harcharik’s sentencing hearing, but Wilson denied it, saying the paramedic had breached “the public trust.”

Marlowe’s new motion says the convictions impede Harcharik’s ability to provide for his family, get financial assistance for college and continue to be employed. He’s worked for an engineering firm, a landscaper and in construction, but he can’t get professional licenses in New Mexico as a felon, says the motion.

Pearson’s daughter reported the debit card theft to SFPD after she went to a local bank to close out her father’s account and noticed several charges after his death. Police were able to identify Harcharik in surveillance video from stores and determined that his paramedic unit had responded to Pearson’s death. The specifics of Harcharik’s sentence make him eligible for release from probation if he serves three years without a violation.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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