California Couple Arrested in Utah for Forgery after Creating and using Counterfeit Bills

A California couple was arrested for forgery in southern Utah after police discovered the duo had been washing and reprinting money to create counterfeit bills.

Fraudulent spending

Photo by: Travis Goodspeed

46 year old Dean Anthony Fagas and 38 year old Crista Jeanette Avila, both of southern California were arrested after a grocery store located in St. George, Utah reported a woman to have been trying to use what appeared to be counterfeit money. Police located the woman nearby and found her to be in possession of multiple hundred dollar bills that were not what they seemed.

Clean cash

After inspecting the bills officers determined them to be counterfeit and upon investigating further, found that other fake bills had been used at various stores throughout the St. George area. The woman, Crista Jeanette Avila, told officers that her boyfriend who was waiting for her at a motel would wash one dollar bills then reprint them as hundred dollar bills. Then Avila would use the fake bills at stores, returning to the hotel with the real monies she received as change. Officers went to the hotel where they found Dean Anthony Fagas and the equipment used to make the counterfeit bills. Although Fagas originally denied his involvement in the fraud scheme, he eventually said he was aware of what was going on but put the blame solely on Avila. Avila and Fagas were both arrested for fraud as well as forgery.

Forgery

Utah Code 76-6-501 states, “a person is guilty of forgery if, with purpose to defraud anyone, or with knowledge that the person is facilitating a fraud to be perpetrated by anyone, the person:

(a) Alters any writing of another without his authority or utters the altered writing; or
(b) Makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues, transfers, publishes, or utters any writing so that the writing or the making, completion, execution, authentication, issuance, transference, publication, or utterance. . .”
That section also defines “writing” to include “printing, electronic storage or transmission, or any other method or recording valuable information including forms such as:
(i) Checks, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, money, and any other symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification. . . “

Monetary forgery is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Since currency is issued by the United States, counterfeiting currency can often end in federal charges as well. U.S. Code 18 USC 470 punishes counterfeiting currency with a fine and/or imprisonment of not more than 20 years.

Check for fake cash

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While those who create counterfeit money can face criminal charges for their actions, so can those who end up with the fake cash when they unknowingly spend the fraudulent bills. Since most counterfeit money is found in higher valued bills, anyone using 20, 50 or 100 dollar bills are encouraged to be aware of any abnormalities in the print and feel of the monies. They should also look for identifying watermarks as well as any embedded thread or security strip. While looking for any watermark or thread can be done quickly by holding a bill up to the light, it is important to note that scammers will often use actual low value currency to create higher value counterfeit bills. Checking a bill in the light for ANY watermark or thread is not enough to avoid fraudulent bills since a five dollar bill could be bleached and reprinted as a 100 dollar bill. To avoid accepting fake cash, it is imperative that those accepting large bills ensure the watermark matches the portrait or the monetary value of the bill they are getting. Anyone facing charges for unknowingly using counterfeit bills should consult an attorney immediately.

Lawyers Arrested For Money Laundering After Baiting and Suing Porn Downloaders

Two lawyers and a sidekick were arrested for money laundering after authorities unraveled a plot the trio had created to bait illegal porn downloaders in order to turn around and sue them.

Legal knowledge

Photo by: Woody Hibbard

Minneapolis, MN lawyer Paul Hansmeier along with his brother Peter Hansmeier and co-conspirator John Steele used their legal expertise to not only sue individuals for pirating pornography, but to plant the movies on file sharing websites for the unsuspecting individuals to find. Hansmeier and accomplices created or obtained rights to pornographic movies before uploading the files to sites known for pirating movies. They then waited for downloaders to take the bait. Once the movies were downloaded, the trio claimed to be representing the companies who created the movies and sued those caught pirating. After collecting a three grand each settlement from hundreds of thousands of online downloaders, the million dollar illegal business was finally discovered and shut down.

Fraud and money laundering

Photo by: Chris Potter

After extorting the individuals pirating porn for nearly six million dollars, the phony legal team was busted and charged with fraud as well as federal charges for money laundering. Money laundering has been considered a federal offense since the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 was passed. Section 1956 of the Act states: “Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity. . . With the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; . . . knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part . . . to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity . . . shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.“ Hopefully with their background in the legal field, the criminal charges brought against the extortionists came as no surprise.

Theft and Unlawful Use of Finance Cards

Credit and debit cards are an easy way for an individual to access the funds in their account when they need to make a purchase, however finance cards can also be easy targets for theft and unlawful use by others.

Increase in finance card theft

Photo by: Bryan Rosengrant

Viewing any county bookings report in Utah and it is apparent that theft and unlawful use of finance cards continues to be a growing trend among larcenist. Finance cards can be stolen out of lost wallets and purses, with the thief using the card until the victim realizes their card is missing and quickly cancels it. There are also ways individuals can have their finance card info stolen discreetly with the card never leaving their wallet. The individual may not realize their finance card information is stolen until they are contacted by their bank or by the police.

Theft of information

One way the discreet theft and use of finance cards takes place is by the use of credit card skimmers. Skimmers can be placed discretely in card readers such as those found at gas pumps. The small hand held skimmers can also be hidden in the pocket of a store cashier, waiter or waitress. The finance card is discretely swiped through the bugged card reader or through the skimmer and the card is handed back to the victim, who is none the wiser. Theft of finance cards can also take place without the thief ever handling the card itself. Information can be stolen online, through malware or collected through the use of shared personal information over the phone or online.

Type of fraud

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Theft or otherwise illegally obtaining another person’s finance card is considered a type of fraud according to Utah State law. According to Utah Code 76-6-506.3, “Any person is guilty of a third degree felony who:
(1) acquires a financial transaction card from another without the consent of the card holder or the issuer;
(2) receives a financial transaction card with intent to use [unlawfully] . . . ;
(3)sells or transfers a financial transaction card to another person with the knowledge that it will be used [illegally] . . . ;
(4) acquires a financial transaction card that the person knows was lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the identity or address of the card holder; . . .
(5) possesses, sells, or transfers any information necessary for the use of a financial transaction card, including the credit number of the card, the expiration date of the card, or the personal identification code related to the card [without the consent of knowledge of the cardholder].”

Unlawful use of card

Beyond felony charges for acquiring someone else’s finance card without their consent, there are other charges if that card is used to make purchases. Utah Code 76-6-506.2 warns that “It is unlawful for any person to:
(1) knowingly use a . . . stolen, or fraudulently obtained financial transaction card to obtain or attempt to obtain credit, goods, property, or services”.
Anyone found unlawfully using a card belonging to someone else will face additional charges depending on the monetary value of what the card was used for. Utah Code 76-7-506.5 notes “Any person found guilty of unlawful [use of a financial card] is guilty of:
(a) a class B misdemeanor when the value of the property, money, or thing obtained or sought to be obtained is less that $500;
(b) a class A misdemeanor when the value . . . is or exceeds $500 . . . ;
(c) a third degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $1,500 . . . ;
(d) a second degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $5,000.”

Not their lucky day

Photo by: Martin Cooper

Some individuals make an effort to steal another’s financial card information while others just happen upon the opportunity. When someone is going through rough financial times, they may see a lost finance card on the ground or an improperly addressed card in their mailbox and think their monetary luck has struck. Regardless of how the card was obtained, keeping and using a card that belongs to another person will end in criminal charges. For legal aid regarding charges for theft and unlawful use of a finance card, speak to a criminal defense attorney.