Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg
DON STARNER, LEFT, Sheriff Mike Schiff, and Jason Gorr pose with the counterfeit bills and equipment used by a couple in Livingston Manor. Sheriff Dept. Detectives Starner and Gorr headed the investigation.
Counterfeiters Run Out of Luck After Bust in Manor
By Nathan Mayberg
LIVINGSTON MANOR October 27, 2006 A large counterfeiting operation was knocked out of commission by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department this week, following a two-month investigation into seven reported incidents which brought in the United States Secret Service.
A couple out of Livingston Manor, were sitting in Town of Liberty Jail without bail, as the DA’s office considers the extent of the charges. So far, Abigail Lager, 27, and Jose Bayron, 34, have been charged with forgery in the first degree and possession of a forged instrument in the first degree. Both are Class C felonies.
About $22,000 in fake bills was recovered; some were in uncut sheets. Sheriff’s deputies also uncovered a small marijuana growing operation, cocaine and some illegal fireworks. They also seized a computer and the printer the pair used to create the bills.
The Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office was involved directly with the investigation and helped prepare the search warrant. The deputies were assisted in their execution of the warrant by the Monticello Police Department and New York State Police. Authorities burst in through the woods behind the residence, as Lager and Bayron had surveillance cameras watching the front driveway. They also had firearms on the premises, but they were not believed to be illegal.
The couple were believed to have been living in Livingston Manor for 4-5 years, according to authorities. Lager was from Pine Bush originally.
The fake bills resembled genuine currency but were slightly thinner and some were a little lighter in color. The Sheriff’s Department believes the two may have used chemicals as well to bypass a security pen. They created both older and newer versions of one dollar to 100 dollar bills.
Sheriff Michael Schiff urged merchants not to accept bills if they did not feel right. Undersheriff Eric Chaboty advised that businesses look for built-in security strips in the money being passed on. When held into the light, genuine paper currency will have a strip in the middle and a watermark image of the president or founding father on the end of the bill. In addition, the dollar amount on the lower right hand side will change colors in the light on a good bill. A fake will not change colors.
The fake bills were passed through Wal-Mart as well as smaller businesses. Schiff and Chaboty said the small mom and pop stores were most affected. There is no way for them to recover the lost revenue. They said such acts are a blow to an economy already experiencing difficulties.
Detectives Jason Gorr and Don Starner headed the investigation. Although they didn’t disclose all of their leads, they did disclose two.
A counterfeit $50 bill was passed by an individual attempting to bail out their friend at the Sullivan County Jail back in September.
Then, in October, Sergeant Chris Lopez responded to a report of money lying in a road near Swan Lake. He discovered 25 counterfeit $50 bills. They were matched to the counterfeit money found in Livingston Manor, due to the watermarks on the paper.
Schiff said he was glad the department was able to stop the operation before it grew larger. He thanked Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen and his office for being a big part of the investigation and obtaining the search warrants.
According to officials, the Secret Service played a key role in the investigation and were showing up at several of the locations where the bills were turning up.
Schiff lauded his detectives, who were up nearly 36 hours straight marking all of the evidence, taking pictures, tagging and documenting all of the items.
“These guys worked around the clock to make it happen,” said Schiff. “I appreciate the hard work they and all the other agencies put in… These guys make it look easy. The public doesn’t realize how much work they put in.”