News and Press Releases

"Five Counterfeiters Plead Guilty"

December 20, 2011

Spokane – Today, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that five individuals charged with manufacturing counterfeit U.S. currency have recently pleaded guilty. They are:

  • Jessica A. Crabtree, age 28, of Spokane,
  • Brittney R. Hearn, age 24, of Spokane,
  • Robin Knuttgen, age 52, of Spokane Valley,
  • Brandy Mueller, age 22, of Pasco, and
  • Melissa A. Smith, age 27, of Spokane.

According to court records, all five defendants were participating in a scheme to bleach genuine currency and reprint the paper with higher denominations. Merchants and banks reported the discovery of counterfeit currency to the United States Secret Service. The Secret Service working with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office unraveled a complex of individuals using this process to make counterfeit currency and pass it along to local merchants. In total, about $5,000 of counterfeit currency was passed.

Sentencing hearings have been set for January and March, 2012. A conviction for manufacturing counterfeit currency carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, up to 3 years of court supervision after release and restitution.

Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said, "Well trained merchants are the first line of defense to this form of fraud. Using Secret Service's training, a merchant can prevent thousands of dollars in losses that end up in the form of higher prices for the rest of us."

Kevin Miller, Resident Agent in Charge of the local Secret Service Office said, "Businesses and consumers should be extra vigilant during the busy holiday shopping season. Genuine Federal Reserve Notes have several security features that include small randomly disbursed blue and red fibers embedded throughout the paper, a watermark (similar to the portrait) that is visible from either side of the note when held up to the light, color shifting ink in the lower right-hand corner, and a clear polyester security thread embedded vertically in the paper which is inscribed with the denomination of the note. The Secret Service places a high priority on maintaining the financial integrity of United States currency and will continue to investigate and apprehend suspects who engage in this activity."

This investigation was conducted by the United States Secret Service and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. These cases are being prosecuted by Earl Hicks, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.


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