PORTLAND, Maine — A Skowhegan man was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court to time served, or about six months in jail, for having nearly $4,000 in counterfeit bills hidden in a Doritos Cool Ranch chip bag in his truck last year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
John Martin, 24, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty March 23 to possessing counterfeit obligations of the United States.
Martin and co-defendant Anthony E. Almeida III, 28, of Shawmut came to the attention of authorities more than a year ago, and were charged in federal court six days later. After a two-day trial, Almeida was found guilty by a jury June 20 of possessing counterfeit obligations. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15 in federal court in Portland.
On June 28, 2011, a week before the pair were stopped on Route 4 in Turner by a detective with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department on routine patrol, a man driving on Oak Pond Road in Skowhegan found a pile of about $6,000 in loose money on the side of the road. He turned the $5,690 in $20, $50 and $100 bills over to the Skowhegan Police Department, which turned it over to federal authorities after Martin and Almeida were arrested.
Almeida’s fingerprints later were found on some of the bills, according to court documents.
Initially, Martin was stopped on July 5, 2011, for driving his father’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup erratically, according to court documents. In a search of the truck, investigators found the chip bag.
“Inside the bag were several chips and a stack of money bundled with rubber bands,” stated the prosecution version of events to which Martin pleaded guilty. “The ACSD detective also located another stack of money bundled with a rubber band in the wallet of the other occupant of the truck.”
U.S. Secret Service agents determined that the $3,970 found in the chip bag in denominations of $20, $50 and $100 was counterfeit, according to court documents. The Secret Service also concluded that the serial numbers on some of the $1,500 in genuine currency found in Martin’s wallet matched those on the counterfeit bills.
Further investigation by the agency found that the bills had been manufactured using an inkjet printer, according to the prosecution version of events. The Secret Service concluded that the ink used to print the bills was consistent with the ink in the Canon printer cartridge found in the Silverado truck.
Information about whether Martin and Almeida scanned the real bills and uploaded them to a computer before printing them or manufactured them in some other manner was not available in court documents. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Lipez declined Friday after Martin’s sentencing to comment on exactly how the counterfeit currency was made.
The penalty for possessing counterfeit money is up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, Martin’s recommended sentence was between six and 12 months, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.