Seven people have been charged with printing, selling or using thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit bills at stores in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, including Rivers Casino, according to state police, who are still searching for an eighth person involved.
The enterprise pushed fake bills — from $5 to $100 — from January to August of this year. It’s unclear how many are still in circulation, according to affidavits filed by state police troopers with the Bureau of Gaming Enforcement at the casino.
The investigation resulted in “thousands of dollars of business losses, employee wages, stolen property and hundreds of police man-hours lost,” while the group’s counterfeit money “continues to circulate to this day to honest, unsuspecting persons and businesses who lose their earnings when the counterfeits are discovered in their possession and seized,” state police said.
Those bills — of which $1,000 in counterfeit currency could be purchased for a real $300 — were used at area jewelry shops, gas stations, Target and Walmart stores, restaurants and Rivers Casino, as well as other businesses that deal in high volumes of currency.
The counterfeit bills were of poor paper quality and didn’t have security features of true currency, including a watermark, color-shifting ink or security thread, state police said.
Charles Taylor, 40, who printed the currency, and the seven other people distributed the money at the casino, state police said.
Taylor was convicted in 2011 for similar activities, sentenced to 33 months imprisonment in 2012 and released in July 2014. Police said he continued to make fake bills while he was on probation, so he was sent to a federal prison for that violation Aug. 18.
When he was apprehended by police that day, he asked to call his girlfriend because he needed to talk to her about a shoebox of money that police believed to be counterfeit but was never recovered.
His girlfriend, Latoya Williams, 24, of Monessen, told police March 7 that Taylor was still printing money and showed police his small printer in a bedroom at her residence, which at the time was in the Mon View Housing Community.
In September, though, she told police she had never seen Taylor with counterfeit bills.
James “Roc” Thornton, 35, was captured on surveillance footage at the casino on the North Shore, and Darnell Shipman, 26, and Christle Cooper, 25, were also charged.
Mr. Shipman, as well as Taylor and Mr. Thornton, who are both being held at the Allegheny County Jail, were each charged with crimes including dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and possessing instruments of a crime.
Ms. Cooper and Ms. Williams face charges of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, conspiracy and possessing instruments of a crime.
Danielle Holley, 30, and Jacquay Hawkins, 22, were previously identified and charged in July with forgery after police said they passed the currency there with Mr. Thornton in February. Ms. Hawkins surrendered to police, while Ms. Holley remains at large, state police said.
State police are also looking for another conspirator, who they described as a white male tattooed on his hands and arms, standing about 5-foot-10 and weighing 210 pounds.
This article was written by Lexi Belculfine from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.