Monday, December 22, 2014

Dangerously cheesy: $11K in counterfeit cash stuffed in a Cheetos can in NE Pa.

Police in northeastern Pennsylvania arrested five people Saturday for allegedly possessing over $13,000 in counterfeit bills — the majority of them stuffed inside the false compartment of a doctored Cheetos can.

The investigation touched off shortly before 1:30 p.m. at a Target store in Dickson City.

A loss prevention officer saw four people walk up to four different registers at the same time and pull out wads of $100 bills to pay for their purchases, according to Dickson City police Officer John Wilson.

Wilson said, as area authorities have recently been having problems with counterfeit currency, the security guard became suspicious.

He waited for the customers to finish their transactions and checked the money. When he realized the bills were bogus, he called 911.

Dispatchers told arriving officers the suspects got into a black Honda Pilot SUV.

Police soon encountered the vehicle en route to a neighboring Wal-Mart and conducted a traffic stop behind the store.

Wilson said he could see the bags of Target merchandise in plain view through the vehicle's window.

After getting permission to search the car, he and the other officers allegedly recovered $2,000 worth of the stolen stuff, as well as two bags of marijuana.

"Also in the backseat was a big, round Cheetos can," Wilson said.

"So I picked up the Cheetos can and I shook it and heard a 'bump' in the Cheetos. I took the top off of it and it was sealed. But it was only halfway filled with Cheetos."

Wilson said he soon realized the can had a false bottom, and that underneath the salty snacks were 111 more counterfeit $100 bills, totaling $11,100.

Taken into custody were vehicle occupants Victor Randolph, 28; Ralph Randolph, 36; Dominick Andino, 23; Calmen Stewart, 22; and Ketsy Devis, 24.

Though some of the suspects initially gave Stroudsburg addresses, Wilson said an investigation revealed they all live in New York City.

All five suspects were arraigned Saturday night on charges of conspiracy to commit forgery, forgery, theft and related offenses.

Devis and Victor Randolph were jailed at the Lackawanna County Prison on $25,000 secured bail, while the other suspects were held on $30,000 secured bail.

Wilson said Secret Service agents also came out to investigate the incident, and it is likely the suspects will be federally indicted, as well.

Alex Wigglesworth For Philly.com
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