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Chronic credit card thief pleads guilty to forgery

Keith Winston has been going into schools and businesses to steal cash and credit cards for almost 20 years.

He was caught in 1998, he was arrested again in 2011, and on Friday morning he pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court to doing it again earlier this year.

Winston, 50, resolved the charges against him by pleading guilty to three counts of forgery – for signing the names of the credit card holders when he went shopping. He admitted that in February he snuck into a private area at Nichols School and stole an employee’s credit card and a school credit card.

In March, he went to North Park Lutheran Church and lifted a credit card from a jacket belonging to a parishioner who was doing volunteer work that day. In April, the Early Childhood Center on Lafayette Avenue was hit.

Prosecutors believe Winston also could be responsible for thefts of cash at other churches and schools during that same period.

Winston wasn’t using his ill-gotten cards for luxury items and Assistant District Attorney Paul C. Parisi said there was no evidence drugs were a factor.

The cards were used at AutoZone, Walgreens and Family Dollar, among other places.

Winston is seen on security videos using the cards at some of the locations.

“He bought car parts, cigarettes and John Travolta DVDs – and not even the good John Travolta movies,” Parisi said.

Nevertheless, the forgeries were felonies, and Winston was sentenced as a second felony offender.

His 2011 case involved offices and schools in Buffalo, West Seneca and Orchard Park. Police said then he would pretend to be there to enroll his son in classes.

His 1998 arrest involved trespassing charges at Holy Spirit, School 64 and St. Margaret’s School on Hertel, where school employees said they found him digging through tuition envelopes.

Winston’s attorney asked that he be allowed to remain free until Oct. 14, when he faces a possible sentence of up to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison, but Justice Penny M. Wolfgang opted against it.

“I am so obsessed with the idea of the targets that the defendant has chosen for his stealing over the past few months – our most vulnerable places, schools and day cares, that he is going to be remanded,” she said.

email: mmiller@buffnews.com

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