County that reportedly used computers and printers to make $10, $20 and $50 bills and tried to victimize local businesses. In the last year, Teller County has been targeted by a bevy of unusual cases involving alleged identity theft, forgery and counterfeit operations.
Last week, authorities snagged Monica Paradise, 24, Brian Joe, 27, Austin Gulla, 21 and David Bowers. Another suspect, Lance Hall, 42, was apprehended on unrelated drug charges in Colorado Springs. The counterfeiting case has generated much discussion at local retail outlets and prompted an inquiry by secret service agents and law officers in Teller County, Woodland Park and Colorado Springs. But the eventual arrest occurred following the prompt action of store clerks in Divide, who detected the fake bills.
The alleged crimes were brought to the attention of Teller County sheriff deputies’ recently when a clerk at a liquor store on U.S. Highway 24 in Divide alerted authorities that a couple tried to use a fake $20 bill in the store. The clerk became suspicious when she noticed botchy ink, and didn’t accept the bill. Sheriff authorities said the counterfeit bill could be detected because the water mark wasn’t right and the feel was different from that of authentic bills.
Then, several days later, another incident was reported at another retail outlet in Divide. Only this time, the money was accepted, but the suspects’ vehicle and identifications were examined and traced, leading authorities to a Woodland Park residence.
A search warrant was then executed by the sheriff’s office, along with Woodland Park police and U.S. Secret Service agents on Jan. 7, according to authorities from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators seized counterfeit money and equipment used to produce the counterfeit bills, the sheriff’s office reported. Investigators interviewed two men at the Woodland Park home and they were arrested, along with Paradise. Four of the suspects were transported to the Teller County Jail.
A second search warrant was obtained for a home in Colorado Springs and it was executed on the following morning. Investigators seized counterfeit bills and counterfeiting equipment, according to authorities. A stolen vehicle, a stolen trailer and illegal drugs were also found at the Colorado Springs home, where another two men were taken into custody, one by the sheriff’s office and the other by Colorado Springs Police.
Authorities still haven’t released details regarding how much money was used by the counterfeit ring. “The people that we have in custody right now were working in this area, although we are still investigating to see if they were involved in other areas,” said Sgt. Mark Porcelli of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department.