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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 5, 2016

Co-Conspirators in Upstate Counterfeiting Ring Plead Guilty to Federal Charges

Contact Person: Jamie Schoen (864) 282-2100

Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated that yesterday afternoon Jose Alfredo Felix, Jr. , a/k/a “Smiley”; Benjamin Andrew Hinson; Penny Leigh Pilgrim; and Christine Nicole Snelson,  each have entered a guilty plea in federal court in Anderson, to Conspiring to Pass Counterfeit Currency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  Additionally, Felix, Jr. entered a guilty plea to Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency, a violation of 18  U.S.C. § 471; Possessing a Firearm after a Felony Conviction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and 924(e);  and Passing Counterfeit Currency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472.  Additionally, Hinson entered a guilty plea to Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 471.  United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain of Anderson accepted the guilty pleas and will impose their sentences after he has reviewed the presentence reports which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Benjamin Hinson and Maranda Hopper, a co-conspirator who has already pled guilty, began manufacturing counterfeit currency in the summer of 2015.  Hinson distributed counterfeit to fellow co-conspirators, including Jose Felix, Jr., and passed the fake bills at stores around the Upstate. 

Felix joined in manufacturing and distributing counterfeit to fellow co-conspirators, including Penny Pilgrim and Christine Snelson, and the three passed counterfeit to businesses in the Upstate.  Additionally, Snelson and Felix worked together to pass the counterfeit to individuals on Craig’s List who were selling goods.  When Felix was arrested in late August 2015, he was in possession of a stolen vehicle with stolen plates, counterfeiting supplies, a Hi-point 9mm pistol, and ammunition.  Felix was a convicted felon at the time of his arrest, and therefore, prohibited from carrying firearms. Co-conspirators in this ring were responsible for passing counterfeit currency throughout the Upstate, Midlands, and North Carolina.

The co-conspirators were indicted on the counterfeiting charges in October of 2015.  Co-conspirators Maranda Hopper, Donald Wesley West, and Ashley King have already pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy.  

Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty for Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $250,000, the maximum penalty for Felon in Possession of a Firearm is imprisonment for Life and/or a fine of $250,000, the maximum penalty for Passing Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $250,000, and the maximum penalty for Conspiracy to Pass Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 5 years and/or a fine of $250,000.

The case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Secret Service, the ATF, the Spartanburg Police Department, the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office, the Columbia Police Department, the Greenville City Police Department, the Pickens County Sheriff's Office, the Anderson Police Department, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Easley Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Fletcher Police Department, and by South Carolina Probation and Parole.  Assistant United States Attorney Jamie Schoen of the Greenville office is prosecuting the case.

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Updated February 8, 2016