Polk County Jury Sentences Tyler County Man to 20 Years in Prison for Credit Card Abuse, LIVINGSTON, October 25, 2013 - In a jury trial on October 24, 2013 a Polk County jury sentenced a 40 year old former Tyler County resident, Justin Cain Tolar, to the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The case involved the theft and subsequent use of an American Express credit card belonging to a Polk County man. The victim returned from working offshore in February, 2013 to find that the card and other mail had been stolen. What he found instead was a credit card bill showing the card had been used at approximately 80 locations, including several in Polk County. Five thousand dollars had also been withdrawn from the victim’s bank account. Other credit cards had been applied for in the victim’s name, and one was issued and used in Huntsville, apparently by the defendant.
The case was reported to the Livingston Police Department and initially investigated by patrolman Brandon Brewer. Officer Brewer reviewed video of the defendant using the card at local stores. He also obtained documents from American Express providing several phone numbers from which American Express had received inquiries about the card. Further investigation revealed that one of those numbers was the Tomball insurance agency of the defendant’s brother. The brother was provided with still photographs from the store video and identified Justin Cain Tolar as the thief.
Extensive Criminal History...
Tolar has an extensive criminal history of at least 15 prior arrests and 11 prior convictions, beginning at age 16. He has 8 prior arrests for Driving While Intoxicated, including four sentences to prison for felony DWI. He was last sentenced to 6 years in prison on May 10, 2010 but was paroled on June 20, 2012.
Credit Card Abuse is a state jail felony, normally punishable by a maximum of only two years in state jail. However, due to his past convictions, Tolar’s punishment range was enhanced to a second degree felony level of two to twenty years in prison.
At the punishment phase of the trial the district attorney’s office produced evidence obtained by Livingston police detective Marty Drake showing Tolar pawned approximately 200 items of property in a period of approximately six months from October, 2012 to April, 2013. For property worth tens of thousands of dollars, Tolar received $9,348.00. Among the property pawned were the items bought by the defendant at a local store using the victim’s credit card.
Tolar was arrested on this charge on May 24, 2013 in Montgomery County. Conroe police officer David Peek testified that at his arrest Tolar possessed what Peek believed was hallucinogenic “bath salts,” and also gave the officer his brother’s name in an attempt to convince the officer that he was not Justin Tolar. The defendant has used his brother’s name many times in dealings with law enforcement.
The jury deliberated approximately five minutes before sentencing Tolar to the maximum of 20 years in prison. Under the law, he will be eligible for parole again after serving only five years of the sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Martin praised the work of Officer Brewer and Detective Drake, saying, “In many of the larger jurisdictions this type of crime goes unsolved because police agencies are overwhelmed with the volume of these cases. They are extremely time consuming to work. I am happy to say that our Polk County agencies go the extra mile to bring these matters to justice. If this sentence serves to deter others from committing these crimes here, then I am extremely gratified.”
Martin added, “It is frustrating that this crime is usually punishable only by the maximum of two years. The defendant’s criminal history enabled us to obtain a more appropriate sentence. I believe the jury would have sentenced him to much longer if such had been available.”