The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 23, 2014

Bogus billers: Four men jailed for role in counterfeiting operation

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

Four Louisiana men were arrested in relation to a counterfeiting operation Saturday in Palestine.

Between 8:30 and 8:40 a.m. Saturday, Palestine police officers Broc January, Matthew Kerr and Jody Coats responded to two different convenience stores on Palestine Avenue in reference to a suspect attempting to pass a counterfeit $50 bill.

In both cases, the subject fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival, leaving in what was reported as a tan Chevy Impala with no license plate.

After receiving information that the vehicle left eastbound from the 400 block of E. Palestine Avenue, Coats and Kerr observed the occupied suspects' vehicle and a previously described suspect in a parking lot in the 1200 block of East Palestine Avenue walking back toward the vehicle. All three suspects were detained at that time for the investigation, according to a Palestine Police Department news release.

A search of the three suspects and the vehicle resulted in the discovery of counterfeit money, according to the PPD. Given the circumstances surrounding the suspects’ scheme to pass bills at multiple convenience stores, all three — Toby Mitchell, 29, Troy Mouton, 20, and Joshua Breaux, 21 — were arrested for engaging in organized criminal activity, a second degree felony.

“It appeared that the suspects attempted to defeat the detector pens by washing out $5 bills and then reprinting them in denominations of $50. Officers advised that the security strip was in place, but did not match the monetary value displayed on the bill,” PPD Patrol Commander Lt. Jeff Powell said.

After receiving information that one of the suspects may have escaped prior to officers' contacting the group, Sgt. Johnson began to warn businesses that there still may be a suspect passing counterfeit bills.

At approximately 2 p.m. Saturday, Johnson responded to the 500 Block of East Palestine, Avenue, where a fourth suspect, Timothy Viator, 26, was observed. Upon attempting to detain the subject, Johnson became involved in a short foot pursuit, and physical confrontation with Viator, who after attempting to reach for a weapon, was tazed by Johnson.

Additional counterfeit money also was located on his person, according to the PPD news release. Viator was charged with evading arrest/detention, resisting arrest/search/transport, engaging in organized criminal activity, and one warrant out of Crowley, La. for burglary.

In total, 18 counterfeit $50 bills were recovered during the initial and secondary investigations.

“The initial officers’ investigation, as well as the follow-up investigation by the patrol sergeant were outstanding,” Powell said. “This was definitely a team effort. Between the business representatives calling the offenses in, and the officers doing a thorough investigation, it went well for us today.

“Sgt. Johnson’s follow-up investigation, by contacting the area businesses and alerting them of the potential for ongoing offenses shows how community policing can benefit both law enforcement and the community,” Powell continued. “I am proud of all involved.”

At least one of the suspects may have ties to a neighboring community in Houston County, according to the news release.

“Detectives are in the process of contacting those law enforcement agencies to ascertain if any counterfeit was passed in their area,” Powell said.

All four suspects remained in the Anderson County Jail on a $100,000 bond each.