Five of 10 people indicted in a counterfeit money scheme have pleaded guilty, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.
Jessica A. Crabtree, 28; Brittney R. Hearn, 24; Robin Knuttgen, 52; Brandy Mueller, age 22; and Melissa A. Smith, 27, faces up to 20 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court.
The women were involved in a scheme to to bleach real money and reprint the paper with higher denominations. About $5,000 in fake currency was passed. Local businesses and banks alerted the Secret Service to the scheme.
Also charged is Cole T. Monson, the so-called “nemesis of property owners” already in prison for dozens of property crimes, Ronald Dale Mueller; Tawny M. Rhodes, Angela Olveda and Sean Wright.
The suspects were indicted by a grand jury in June.
Crabtree, Hearn, Knuttgen, Mueller and Smith are scheduled to be sentenced in January and March.
“Well-trained merchants are the first line of defense to this form of fraud. Using Secret Service’s training, a merchant can prevent thousands of dollars in losses that end up in the form of higher prices for the rest of us,” U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said in a prepared statement.
Said Kevin Miller, resident agent in charge of the local Secret Service office said, “Businesses and consumers should be extra vigilant during the busy holiday shopping season. Genuine Federal Reserve Notes have several security features that include small randomly disbursed blue and red fibers embedded throughout the paper, a watermark (similar to the portrait) that is visible from either side of the note when held up to the light, color shifting ink in the lower right-hand corner, and a clear polyester security thread embedded vertically in the paper which is inscribed with the denomination of the note.”