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Two Men Bound Over For Trial On Counterfeiting Charges

Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two men were bound over for trial on counterfeiting-related crimes during their preliminary hearings in federal court on Tuesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Shickich also ordered James Watkins to remain in detention until trial.

However, Shickich released co-defendant Russ Welch, Jr., on a $10,000 unsecured bond coupled with strict conditions.

Watkins and Welch are charged with counterfeiting a $100 bill and $10 bill, and aiding and abetting each other. In a second count, Welch is charged with passing a bogus $100 bill and Watkins aided and abetted him in that crime, according to court records.

During the preliminary hearing, U.S. Secret Service Agent Rick Near told Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hambrick the case started for the federal government when a Newcastle Police detective contacted him on April 19 about a counterfeiting scheme.

On April 5, a police officer was dispatched to a convenience store where the store manager said a man tried to buy snacks with a counterfeit $100 bill.

An officer who reviewed the store’s surveillance video identified as Welch, Near said.

Police obtained a search warrant for Welch’s residence in Osage, which is about 20 miles west of Newcastle. They found Welch and Watkins and their wives, counterfeit bills, and printers in the house and in a camper on the property, Near said.

Watkins insisted he alone printed the counterfeit bills, and he had been counterfeiting for several years, he said.

However, investigators recently learned Welch bought a printer at a store in Newcastle on April 2, Near said.

During the cross-examination, Watkins’ public defender Dan Blythe asked Near if other agencies besides the Newcastle Police Department were involved, and Near responded he did not know.

Welch’s defense attorney Jamie Woolsey said Welch should not be charged with the act of counterfeiting because Watkins took full responsibility for it.

But Shickich disagreed, saying the two men lived at the same residence, the video showed Watkins was in the convenience store at the same time as Welch, and Welch bought a printer for Watkins’ use.

Those facts showed they aided and abetted each other in counterfeiting, and provided sufficient evidence that the case should go forward, Shickich said.

During the detention hearing, Blythe argued Watkins has medical needs and he should be released because his mother has arranged for him to see a doctor in Texas.

Watkins also has had some arrests but no convictions in recent years, and he’s been out of prison for 15 years.

Shickich disagreed, saying Watkins has active warrants in Missouri and Arkansas, and no viable plan for Watkins’ release could guarantee the safety of the community or that he would show up in court.

In arguing for Welch’s release, Woolsey said he has had some criminal history, but he has a home he owns in Osage.

Shickich agreed to release Welch on a $10,000 unsecured bond, but with strict restrictions about having a job, travel, drug and alcohol testing, and not having contact with Watkins or potential witnesses.

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