Crime Ring Passes More Than $100,000 in Fake Bills

Counterfeit ring is also linked to drugs and as many as 70 burglaries

By Artie Ojeda and Joseph M.D. Young
|  Monday, Jun 21, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 PM PDT
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From $1 to $100: A Counterfeit Operation

U.S. Secret Service

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From $1 to $100: A Counterfeit Operation

Investigators say the suspects would operate out of hotels.
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A major counterfeiting ring responsible for more $250,000 in theft to local businesses and credit card companies has been broken up in San Diego.

The sophisticated operation involved at least 30-people who have now been arrested.

"Operation Blue Ray" was conducted between the months of October 2009 and May 2010.

According to prosecutor Sharla Evert, the thieves would rip off local businesses like Target and Sears Essential by 'washing' $1 bills and reprinting them as $100-bills. The fake loot was also passed through local casinos.

But the operation also extended way beyond money washing. The suspects would also "re-encode" gift cards with information electronically lifted from stolen credit cards.

And the operation led to other crimes. Some of the suspects would use the fake money and stolen credit cards to check into expensive hotels and steal items like flat screen TV's.

The thieves would tape hangers to the end of the televisions and then drape a clothing cover over them and simply walk out of the hotel.

When members in the ring checked in, they would turn the rooms into counterfeit money labs all the while running up the bill on the stolen credit cards.

Also, as many as 70-burglaries were committed by suspects throughout the county. The operation also extended to Orange County.

Many of the participants in the ring were known White Supremacists in the Ocean Beach and El Cajon, according to the district attorney's office.The group was also involved in drug use and possession, including heroin and methamphetamine.

In January 2010, the ring transitioned from counterfeiting credit cards to gift cards, which the DA’s office says is becoming profitable and easy to accomplish with inexpensive technology.

More than 5,000 credit card data files were found on suspects. According to investigators, much of the data came from hotel employees who gave the ring customers' receipts with credit card data in exchange for methamphetamine and heroin.

The investigation took place over a two-month period and involved many levels of law enforcement during the different operations. The Economic Crimes Division of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office is currently prosecuting at least 30 Operation Blue Ray, according to the DA’s office. The defendants are facing charges including identity theft, grand theft, burglary, credit card fraud and counterfeiting and some may get up to 30 years, according to the DA.

The DA says that the crime ring’s name stemmed from Blue Ray DVD players, which were the only items the group bought with the counterfeit money early on.
 

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