Florence Resident Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Manufacturing and Passing Counterfeit Money
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that Michael James Bembry, age 28, of Florence, South Carolina, pled guilty in federal court in Florence to charges arising out of South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The South Carolina charges were for conspiracy to manufacture and pass counterfeit money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and the Pennsylvania charges were for manufacturing counterfeit money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 471. Bembry agreed to the transfer of the Pennsylvania charges for the purpose of pleading guilty to those and all other pending federal charges at the same time in South Carolina. United States District Judge Bryan Harwell, of Florence, accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
The evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing established that Bembry was involved in a conspiracy to manufacture and pass counterfeit $100 and $50 bills in multiple states including South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This conspiracy, which began in 2015, included at least nine defendants who were responsible for making and passing over $100,000 in counterfeit money.
Bembry and other conspirators manufactured counterfeit money at several residences in Florence, South Carolina, and in a room at the Roosevelt Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The counterfeiting method employed by Bembry and others involved using cleaning fluid or bleach to remove or “wash” the images from genuine $1 and $10 bills until only blank genuine currency paper remained. They would then use a genuine $100 bill, known as a “parent note”, to print images of that $100 bill onto the blank genuine currency paper. By this method the perpetrators would print numerous counterfeit $100 bills on genuine currency paper all bearing the same serial number as the $100 parent note. They would then go to various businesses and purchase small items with the counterfeit $100 bills in order to obtain genuine currency as change.
In May 2015, multiple counterfeit $100 bills, a genuine $100 “parent note”, a printer, and other counterfeiting materials were seized by local law enforcement from a car Bembry was driving in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Later, in July 2016, Bembry and a codefendant passed a counterfeit $100 bill at a business in Bryson City, North Carolina.
Ms. Lydon stated the maximum penalty Bembry can receive is imprisonment for 20 years and a fine of $250,000.00. The case was investigated by agents of United States Secret Service with the assistance of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, the Florence Police Department, the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, and the Bryson City Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney A. Bradley Parham of the Florence office is prosecuting the case with the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.