By GRACE GADDY and ANGIE ALVARADO
PALESTINE — Palestine police have apprehended two individuals after uncovering a case linking a series of counterfeit fraud abuses in the area, which will remain under investigation.
Lt. Jeffrey Powell, patrol commander for the department, held a press conference Monday morning outlining details of the case.
“The investigation, it appears, will clear at a minimum of between 10 to 12 active cases that the department is working regarding the disbursement of counterfeit bills in our area,” Powell said. “And we've contacted the (U.S.) Secret Service, and they are actually coming today (Monday) to look at the case.”
Officers Broc January and Brandon Nicholson were conducting surveillance on a residence in the area of E. Lacy and N. Fowler streets last Thursday when they observed a traffic violation on a red Chevrolet Cavalier leaving the residence at approximately 11 p.m.
The officers stopped the vehicle driven by 33-year-old Robbie Dudley, with a female passenger later identified as Jennifer Bailey, 30. After discovering that Dudley was a “habitual violator of driving without a license/driving with a suspended driver's license,” officers placed him under arrest for driving without a valid driver's license.
Officers were suspicious of additional illegal activity and searched items belonging to Bailey in the vehicle. Their search led to the discovery and seizure of several counterfeit $20 bills.
The serial number on the bills is: ID11725049C.
The department obtained a search warrant to further investigate the vehicle, which was carried out the next day by officers Matt Kerr and Ricki Baker, with assistance from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice K-9 unit. Officers found additional counterfeit items — a total of $3,000 in counterfeit $20s — as well as fraudulently obtained credit cards in the vehicle.
In addition to these items, the dog found “some meth and a syringe” in the vehicle, Powell added.
“We suspect upwards of $10,000 has been passed in the community. In this case, we found she (Bailey) was actually using some type of resume paper and an ink jet printer to make the copies on,” Powell said. “And she had fraudulent credit cards. She had obtained the information of other people.”
Powell said police believed the fraudulent credit cards were not from local residents.
Under Texas State Law, both forgery and the fraudulent use of identifying information (as in the credit cards) are third-degree felonies, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and two to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Since the counterfeit money is subsequently removed from the place of purchase, Powell said that businesses or individuals who receive the money are considered a victim in this type of crime. Local businesses that were affected include Mr. D's and other convenience stores within the area.
Powell said Dudley had not been charged at this time for forgery, though he is in custody on the count of driving without a license.
“At this time, we’re not sure if he’s aware of the items in his car. He is in custody for driving without a license,” Powell said, adding that the items were found in boxes in the vehicle.
“We want to caution the public and commend our officers in a job well done in this case,” Powell said.
Powell urged area residents and businesses to be skeptical of money that looks or feels suspicious.
“Look for the watermark inside the bill,” Powell said. “Look at the color and feel of the money—it will be different. People who handle money all the time can feel the difference.
“When exchanging money, if someone pulls out a lot of cash, be cautious. If you’re suspicious of the look or feel of the money, call the police,” he said.
He encouraged residents to report any additional information regarding this type of crime. People can call the Criminal Investigation Division at 903-731-8484 or utilize the department's recently implemented tip communication network by texting “PALPD + the information” to 847411 or logging onto www.cityofpalestinetx.com and clicking the link for TIP411.