Federal Judge Sentences Man Who Passed Bogus Bills In Newcastle
The second of two defendants in a counterfeiting scheme was sentenced to prison for making and passing bogus cash in Newcastle, according to federal court records.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Wednesday sentenced James Watkins to one-and-a-half years of imprisonment on one count of counterfeiting and forging U.S. currency and aiding and abetting.
Freudenthal also ordered Watkins to be on three years of supervised probation, pay $100 in special assessments, pay $210 in restitution, and resolve outstanding warrants while on supervised release.
Watkins pleaded guilty on Oct. 25.
On Sept. 14, Freudenthal sentenced Watkins' partner Russ Jay Welch, Jr., of Osage for counterfeiting and forging obligations or securities of the United States, and aiding and abetting. He received two years, three months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised, and was ordered to pay $210 in restitution and a $100 special assessment.
In exchange for Welch's and Watkins' guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a second count of aiding and abetting the passing -- legally called "uttering" -- counterfeit money.
The case began on April 5 when a Newcastle police officer was called to a convenience store where the manager said a man tried to buy snacks with a counterfeit $100 bill. A review of the store's surveillance video identified the man as Welch, according to court records.
Police obtained a search warrant for Welch's residence in Osage, 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.
Watkins insisted he alone printed the counterfeit bills, and he had been counterfeiting for several years, but investigators learned Welch recently bought a printer at a store in Newcastle.
Two weeks later, the U.S. Attorney's Office took over the case with the help of the U.S. Secret Service.
During the investigation, Watkins told a Newcastle detective how he was improving his counterfeiting craft.
"Watkins said he was perfecting his design and thought the CFT FRNs (counterfeit reserve notes) looked good," according to federal court records. "Watkins told Detective Vaughn that he almost got caught in Missouri, but they never got him because he didn't pass any CFT FRNs."
But his bogus Benjamins apparently weren't good enough.