Secret Service Arrests San Bernardino County Counterfeiting Principal

(July 27)  The U.S. Secret Service put the kibosh on a counterfeiting operation active in at least two San Bernardino County cities.
According to federal agents, Paul Hernandez, 32, was arrested on July 22 in Rancho Cucamonga, while members of the Secret Service were serving a search warrant in Big Bear Lake City relating to the printing of 5,000 counterfeit $100 bills.
According to Chris Butler, the resident agent in charge with the U.S. Secret Service’s Riverside field office,  “Paul Hernandez was the main target in an operation called ‘Bear Trap.’ worked by Secret Service agents based in Los Angeles in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. He was arrested without incident at around 10 a.m. Friday July 20 in the parking lot of the Bass Pro Shop in Rancho Cucamonga. Simultaneously, a search warrant was served at his residents in Big Bear, where his counterfeit plant used for the manufacturing of currency was located.”
Butler said that plant consisted of “a digital high quality copier. We did find the images on these particular notes to be of high quality. He did use a very good quality digital copier. What differentiates these notes is that in the place of the face plate number and the quadrant number all they had was a letter. For over $500,000 to have been passed, you know it is a pretty good note. We know there are more out there in circulation. We think he was in operation for two or three years.  We have determined that over $500,000 worth of these notes were passed in the greater Los Angeles area, Canoga Park, Moorpark, the Inland Empire and Nevada.”
Those victimized by Hernandez will be out of luck, Butler said. “If anyone has one of those bills, they will detect that when they try put it into their [bank] account. The bank will not accept it. The merchant will take the loss. If they try to deposit one, they will not slide through and go to the federal reserve. They will be caught at the bank level. They lack face plate numbers and quadrant numbers.”
Hernandez formerly had a counterfit plant set up in the San Fernando Valley, but moved to Big Bear when agents were closing in on him at the Los Angeles County location.
“He relocated to Big Bear and after we located him there we initiated the operation we called Bear Trap,” Butler said. “We  had him under surveillance and were watching him for a while.”
Butler said he could not disclose who Hernandez had been in contact with, but did say “There is the possibility of more arrests in the future.”
It has not yet been determined whether Hernandez will be prosecuted by federal or state authorities, Butler said. Counterfeiting is a federal crime but it can also be prosecuted by state prosecutors.
“He was taken to West Valley Detention Center,” Butler said. “He was interviewed there. He may be going locally. He may go federally. We do not know at this time. It looks like he is going locally at this point but that may change later. Bear Trap was an operation handled out of the Secret Service Los Angeles office.”
No matter who handles the case against Hernandez, Butler said, “He’s looking at some serious time, well over five years.”

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