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

Photo by: Neubie

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.

Marijuana Clandestine Lab Busted in 55+ Utah Community

A marijuana clandestine lab was busted in a 55+ community located in Southern Utah and at least one person arrested was as senior citizen.

Semi-retired

Photo by: Mark

63 year old Richard James Hughes, a senior resident in the retirement community of SunRiver St. George was arrested after drug enforcement agents uncovered a marijuana lab Hughes and 38 year old Bradley Cameron Madsen were operating out of Hughes home and garage. Agents delivered a search warrant upon the house while unsuspecting neighbors in the peaceful neighborhood watched in disbelief. Authorities discovered an excessive amount of dried marijuana and equipment likely used to make Dab, a potent butane hash oil with a highly concentrated amount of THC. Dab is used to result in a stronger and more rapid high than normal smoking of marijuana would be able to produce. Hughes and Madsen were arrested on multiple charges including engaging in a clandestine laboratory operation.

Clandestine lab

Utah Code 58-37d-4 states “It is unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally . . . engage in compounding, synthesis, concentration, purification, separation, extraction, or other physical or chemical processing of any substance, including a controlled substance.” That section goes on the note that “a person who violates [this subsection] is guilty of a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term of not less than 3 years nor more than 15 years.”

Hobby or side job

Hughes’ neighbors were shocked to hear that a fellow resident in the popular retirement community was engaging in illegal activity involving operating a clandestine lab. Some may have wondered if he stumbled into a unorthodox hobby that came with legal hazards or if he picked up a “work from home” job to support himself financially, much like other residents trying to survive in one of the faster growing areas in Utah. Regardless of the reason, according to Utah law, he will have at least “3 years nor more than 15” to figure things out before he is released back into the community.

Utah Police Search for Driver Who Left the Scene of a Deadly Hit and Run

Utah Police are searching for the driver who left the scene of a deadly hit and run accident that occurred over the weekend in St. George.

Deadly hit and run

Photo by: Tony Webster

On Saturday evening sometime between 5 and 8pm, a Utah driver struck a woman walking along Dixie Drive in St. George, just south of a busy intersection. The driver then left the scene and the woman’s body was found later by other pedestrians walking by. The victim was identified by her daughters as 53 year old Bettina Abraham. It has not been announced if Abraham was killed instantly or died alone on the side of the road after being hit.

Plea via social media

In a live video cast from the St. George Police Department, a department spokeswoman pleaded with the public to come forward with any information related to events that evening or vehicles that may have been involved. They even beseeched the person responsible to contact them to let the victim’s family receive closure and allow things to “move forward”.

Causes and consequences of deadly accidents

When someone takes the life of another with their vehicle, they may or may not face criminal charges depending upon the circumstances:

• If it is found that the driver was not at fault when the deadly accident occurred, no citations would be given.

• If the driver made an error in driving that resulted in “the death of another” but that didn’t amount to being reckless or negligent, they may be charged with negligent homicide as stated in Utah Code 76-5-206, a class A misdemeanor.

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• If a person is driving their vehicle recklessly such as through speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. and causes a deadly accident, they may face second degree manslaughter as stated in Utah Code 76-5-205.

• If the driver was using what Utah Code 76-5-207.5 describes as a “handheld wireless communication device” when the accident occurred, they may face third or second degree felonies, depending on whether or not they were also driving in a criminally negligent manner.

• If the driver was “operat[ing] a motor vehicle in a negligent manner” and “is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug” they may be charged with automobile homicide, a third degree felony. If they were found to be driving in a “criminally negligent manner”, it would then be increased to a second degree felony.

Leaving the scene of an accident

Whether or not the driver was completely innocent when the deadly accident occurred or if they were acting in a criminal manner or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the driver flees the scene, they will face felony charges. Utah Code 41-6a-401.5 states, The operator of a vehicle who has reason to believe that the operator may have been involved in an accident resulting in the death of a person shall: immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible without obstructing traffic more than in necessary; and remain at the scene of the accident until the operator has [given driver information, rendered aid to the other person, and contacted authorities]”.

Reasons to flea

There have been many public assumptions as to why the driver chose not to stop after striking Bettina Abraham with their vehicle. Some in the community claim the driver was texting, high, drunk, or maybe not a legal driver. Others guess the driver may have been scared or distraught and fled the scene out of emotional distress over what they had done. Whatever the reason, the driver should back themselves with a reputable attorney and turn themselves into the police immediately.