Photo: counterfeit lab
Ventura County – No doubt adherents to the principle “go big or don’t go at all,” a trio of counterfeiters involved in the production of bogus U.S. currency and credit cards found themselves the objects of Ventura County Sheriff’s Department scrutiny as they were passing homemade $100 bills at a Moorpark Kohl’s Department Store on the evening of January 28th.
But their sheer audacity apparently failed to impress the store clerk, who took one look at the proffered fake Benjamins and promptly dialed 911 to inform local law enforcement of the fact that, according to the report filed by VCSD spokesman Det. Sgt. Kevin Lynch, “two men were buying expensive items using fake $100 bills.”
That call brought the cops to the store, whereupon Perris resident 42-year-old Donald Hagee, and 44-year-old Cucamonga resident Mitchell Wagers were promptly contacted and found to be in possession of “$15,000 in counterfeit bills,” while a third associate of theirs, 31-year-old Beaumont resident Crystina Graciano sat outside in a waiting vehicle.
As both Hagee and Wagers were in possession of narcotics while on their shopping spree, and as Wagers “was wanted for an outstanding parole warrant”—both men known to law enforcement as having remarkable histories of felony convictions—the trio was taken into custody and transported to Ventura County Jail where they were charged with conspiracy, forgery, and weapons and narcotics violations.
The following two days brought the case to the attention of the U.S. Secret Service, as well as the Thousand Oaks Special Enforcement Bureau whose immediately ensuing investigation produced a search warrant on a San Bernardino residence.
The service of that warrant yielded the discovery of “one of the largest and most sophisticated labs” seen by the U.S. Secret Service Special Agent on the scene, including “several computers, laser printers, plastic ID card printers, plastic card cutters, precision cutting tables and tools, electric heating and drying devices, dry powder ink sets, thousands of dollars of counterfeit currently in varying degrees of completion”…and the list goes on to include a loaded firearm.
Hagee and Wagers remain in custody on no-bail holds, while Graciano was released on $20,000 bail. One can only imagine the source of her bail funds.
Photos: Courtesy Ventura County Jail Booking, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department