A counterfeiting operation that distributed more than $200,000 in fake $100 bills was brought down in part after phony money used at five Columbus-area stores was confiscated, police said.
Four Indianapolis residents were arrested Dec. 1 on the southeast side of Columbus on forgery charges, accused of passing the fake bills in Edinburgh and Columbus. The counterfeiting activity, which occurred in recent months, took place primarily in central Indiana, police said.
Additionally, a Columbus man was among three people arrested during a Dec. 10 raid at a home on the east side of Indianapolis, where counterfeit $100 bills, guns, ammunition and drug paraphernalia were discovered, said Gary Durham, special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Indianapolis field office.
Timothy P. Deutscher, 35, of 2895 Kentucky Ave., was being held Monday in the Marion County Jail on eight counts of forgery and one count of possession of methamphetamine, jail officials confirmed. Deutscher’s bond was set at $250,000.
Following the money
Four Indianapolis residents are thought to have passed fake $100 bills Dec. 1 at five stores in the Columbus area.
1:26 p.m.: One fake bill used to pay for merchandise at Tools and More, 11622 NE Executive Drive, Edinburgh
1:35 p.m.: Several fake bills used to pay
for $1,800 in merchandise from the
Coach outlet store, 11811 N. Executive Drive, Edinburgh
2:15 p.m.: 25 counterfeit $100 bills used to purchase merchandise from Walmart, 2025 Merchants Mile, Columbus
2:45 p.m.: 20 counterfeit $100 bills used to purchase merchandise from Target, 1865 N. National Road in Columbus Center
3:41 p.m.: An unsuccessful attempt to
use counterfeit bills to obtain a $2,000
gift card from Walmart, 735 Whitfield Drive, Columbus
Prior to the arrests in Columbus, the U.S. Secret Service was starting to make progress in its investigation after fake $100 bills surfaced in September at Indianapolis-area locations, said Lt. Matt Myers, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department.
“They were tracking them, but our arrests provided the final piece they needed to move forward,” Myers said.
Phony currency was passed about 1:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at two stores on Executive Drive in the Edinburgh Premium Outlets mall.
Counterfeit currency was passed at Tools and More to pay for pliers and wire cutters, which were used to cut security devices off merchandise, Edinburgh Deputy Police Chief David Lutz said.
Several bills were passed to obtain six expensive purses, valued at almost $1,800, from the nearby Coach outlet store, Lutz said.
Surveillance video showed three women and one man — traveling together in a small tan and silver minivan — had taken the merchandise, Lutz said.
About an hour later, shortly before 2:30 p.m., several fake bills were passed at the west side Walmart, 2025 Merchants Mile, Columbus, to obtain $2,500 worth of items including a television, iPads, video games and DVDs for children, Myers said.
“The amount they got from the store was so large that employees had to help them load their vehicle,” Myers said.
But at the checkout counter, the cashier noticed the bills had no color fibers, a strange texture and a smell resembling a cleaning solution, Myers said. The cashier, who also was suspicious that one customer gave her more than two dozen $100 bills, notified her manager, who immediately called police, Myers said.
When investigating officers arrived and determined the bills were fake, they were able to use the cashier’s account of events and surveillance video to get detailed descriptions of the suspects and their vehicle, Myers said. He said further examination indicated the phony bills were actually two separate pieces of paper glued together.
Investigators believe the four suspects next traveled to Target, 1865 N. National Road, where about 20 fake $100 bills were used to fraudulently obtain similar merchandise, Myers said.
After leaving Target in Columbus Center, the man phoned the mother of his son to tell her he had a Wii video game the boy wanted for Christmas, Lutz said.
After the mother told him the boy wanted an Xbox, not a Wii game, the group went a short distance to the eastside Walmart in an effort to exchange the game system, Lutz said.
By the time the four arrived at 735 Whitfield Drive, both security and management personnel at the eastside Walmart already had descriptions of the suspects, their minivan and details of their crimes, Myers said.
Two Columbus police patrolmen — Wesley Dodge and Paul Garnett — saw merchandise taken from the westside store while the four suspects were inside exchanging the game and attempting to acquire a $2,000 gift card, Myers said.
Dodge and Garnett pulled the suspects over just east of National Road, Myers said.
After the minivan driver told Garnett she had forgotten her license, a computer check was made that showed her driving privileges had been suspended.
When the officers asked about the counterfeit money, one woman denied having knowledge that the bills were phony, Myers said. But after further questioning, three other suspects admitted they knew they were passing bogus cash, Myers said.
All of the merchandise purchased with the fake bills was recovered by police when they made the arrest.
The four Indianapolis residents who were taken into custody Dec. 1, including a mother and daughter, and their charges were:
- Dione P. Wells, 42, forgery and information of forgery, released on $10,000 bond.
- Lanae Shanice Wells, 23, forgery and driving while suspended, released on $30,000 bond.
- Tamika La Faye Walker-Massie, 36, forgery, false informing and out-of-county warrant, no bond.
- James Edward Henson, 27, forgery, released on $25,000 bond.
The forgery counts are Class C felonies punishable by two to eight years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Due to continued involvement of the U.S. Secret Service, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash has not yet received the paperwork necessary to file formal charges.
While Nash and his staff will determine what, if any, state charges will be filed, the suspects are likely to face federal indictments, Dunham said.
The two Indianapolis residents who were arrested with Deutscher on Dec. 10 in Marion County have been identified as Brandon Clark, 24, and Jessica Fisher, 30.
Clark faces eight charges of theft or receiving stolen property, one count of possession of methamphetamine and one count of firearm possession by a serious violent felon.
Fisher faces eight counts of forgery and is being held for a law enforcement agency outside Marion County.
As of Monday morning, both Clark and Fisher were being held in lieu of $250,000 bond in the Marion County Jail.