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Back Local News Arrests spur warning on counterfeit bills

Arrests spur warning on counterfeit bills

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AT LEAST 210 counterfeit bills – some $20s but mostly $50s – are now circulating on Guam. Federal authorities are warning retailers and vendors to be on the lookout for fake notes.

The presence of counterfeit monies had been the subject of a federal investigation since January, but the recent arrest of Michael Basilio Badar and Reneelinette Penarubia Mesa revealed that over the last three weeks, a total of 210 counterfeit bills had been manufactured and released to some individuals.

Badar, 29, and Mesa, 32, were arrested on Oct. 22 at Harmon Loop Hotel. During their arrest they confirmed to U.S. Secret Service Agent Glen Peterson that they had been manufacturing counterfeit United States currency. They would bleach genuine 1- or 5-dollar bills, scan a genuine 50-dollar bill onto the computer, then print the scanned image onto the bleached $1s and $5s.

Mesa confessed that they also tried to counterfeit $100s.

She said that up until the first week in October, they had been living at Badar’s father’s house in Dededo and obtained the laptop computer and printer from that residence.

Badar told Agent Peterson that they started making counterfeit bills when they moved out of his father’s house, when he learned how to make counterfeit bills by watching a video on the Internet.

According to Agent Peterson, merchants and banks started receiving a rash of counterfeit 50-dollar Federal Reserve notes in the first week of October.

Upon close examination of the counterfeit notes, Peterson said the counterfeiting technique is known as “washing” or “bleaching.”

The technique, according to Peterson, uses some type of solvent that strips all the original ink off the paper. After a drying process, an image of a higher denomination is scanned onto a computer and is printed upon the genuine paper with digital color or inkjet technology.

Numerous merchant cashiers on Guam use a counterfeit detection pen to test questionable bills; however, the paper used in this technique is genuine – the bleached $1s and $5s – which renders the detection pen virtually ineffective.

Badar and Mesa's arrest was the result of the Guam Police Department's apprehension of Ok Ja Cho, who attempted to pass three fake $50s at the Micronesia Mall in Dededo on Oct. 22.

When asked where she got the counterfeit bills, Cho said she received the notes from a couple named “Renee” and “Carlo,” who were later identified as Mesa and Badar.

Cho said the couple had just checked out of Room 306 at the Palm Ridge Inn or Days Inn Hotel in Barrigada. She drove the couple to the mall with the intent to purchase small items with counterfeit currency from different merchants in order to receive genuine currency.

Cho told investigators that Badar had been making counterfeit currency for a long time.

On Oct. 24, GPD received a call that there was a person at the Island Girl Coffee Shop attempting to pass what appeared to be a counterfeit bill. GPD responded and was given the license plate and description of the vehicle occupied by two males. The clerk told police that the two men came to the coffee shop and tried to purchase a small item with a $50. The clerk recognized the fake money because she had been victimized a few weeks earlier with the same type of $50.

GPD Officer Sang To contacted Agent Peterson and advised him that the vehicle had been stopped and a suspect was in custody. The person arrested was Brian Leon Guerrero, who knew that the bill which had been passed at the Island Girl Coffee Shop was counterfeited. Leon Guerrero told investigators that he had received the bill from Mesa and Badar and that the couple was presently staying at the Harmon Loop Hotel in Room 229.

The GPD officers and Agent Peterson went to Harmon Loop Hotel and found a computer, a color-printer, gloves with green ink on them, and a 5-dollar bill in the process of being bleached.

Mesa and Badar were charged with possession of electronic images of United States currency.

They appeared before District Court Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan last Friday.

After reviewing their financial affidavit, the court appointed attorney Leilani Lujan to represent Badar, while attorney Shane Black has been appointed to represent Mesa.

Their preliminary examination is set for Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m., while their detention hearing is set for the same day at 1:30 p.m. They are currently detained at the Federal Detention Center in Hagåtña.

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