5 arrested for counterfeiting

Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five people were arrested and charged with forgery after they passed counterfeit $100 bills at several local businesses, according to Bainbridge Public Safety.

In all, seven local businesses, including one in Attapulgus, were affected by the counterfeit bills, said BPS Investigator Mark Esquivel, who added that at least one Tallahassee, Fla., business reported being a victim.

Investigation into the counterfeiting began Friday morning. Two retail stores, one on North West Street and the other on South Scott Street, were informed by their bank that their daily deposits contained a counterfeit $100 bill.

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A bank employee stated to police that the counterfeit bills appeared to have been made from bleached $5 dollar bills. Both bills had been submitted to the U.S. Secret Service. A Shotwell Street business reported to police that an employee had received a counterfeit bill on Thursday. All of the bills had identical serial numbers, a sign that they were the work of the same counterfeiters.

At about 3 p.m. Friday, an employee with an Attapulgus business reported that a man had attempted to pass a counterfeit $100 bill by buying soap and garbage bags. The employee told a Sheriff’s deputy that she picked the bill off a counter and held it up to the light. She stated she could see the outline of a five-dollar bill and the face on it was almost blacked out. The texture off the bill also felt off to her.

When the employee stated she could not take the bill, the man who had tried to pass it took it back and left the store. The employee got the description of the suspect’s vehicle, a blue Jeep Cherokee, and noted that it was headed north on U.S. 27 toward Bainbridge.

Bainbridge Public Safety officers went on the lookout and a few minutes later, BPS Major Walter Landrum pulled over a vehicle matching the employee’s description at the city limit sign on Tallahassee Highway.

Investigators spoke with the vehicle’s occupants and when their stories raised suspicion, officers asked for and received consent to search the vehicle, Esquivel said. Inside the vehicle, officers found the original, real $100 used to print the fake bills, as well as counterfeiting equipment, according to Esquivel.

Those individuals charged in the counterfeiting scam were: Cyntha Ann Akins, 43, of Tallahassee; Shantae Nicole Akins, 25, of Havana, Fla.; Mary Lee Baker, 46, Quincy, Fla.; Paul Rahmoan Smith, 41, of Tallahassee, Fla., and Antonio Jerrod Ward, 26, of Tallahassee.

Ward was charged with driving while license withdrawn, giving false information or a false name to police and one count of forgery in the first degree.

The other four suspects were each charged with six counts of forgery in the first degree.