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From Ocean City Today, Ocean City Maryland at http://www.oceancity.md/

 

Israeli nationals charged with passing ‘funny’ money

By Rota L. Knott

Managing Editor

 

(Nov. 21, 2003) Proving that money does indeed make the world go around, two Israeli nationals were arrested by Ocean City police early this week for allegedly spending counterfeit $100 bills at resort businesses.

Police believe the men, Guy Halperin and Oren Sabag, both 30, were laundering the ‘funny money’ for someone in Israel or the Russian mob and taking a cut of the proceeds for themselves.

While the men told agents at a local real estate office when they rented a condo for a week that they were in town for a fishing trip, police believe they came to the resort with the goal of passing counterfeit cash. Because the quality of the fake money is so good many businesses accepted it without question, said DFC Brett Case of the Ocean City Police Department.

“These are the best copies I’ve ever seen,” agreed OCPD forensic Crime Scene Investigator Clint Chamberlain. “They have gotten everything down.”

Detective Sgt. Richard P. Moreck said Halperin and Sabag immediately started cashing counterfeit money after they arrived in Ocean City late last week. He said they passed eight counterfeit $100 bills in the resort and three in Fenwick Island, Del.

“They’re very good counterfeits. I think they’re foreign made,” Moreck said.

The watermark on the counterfeit cash is clearly visible when the money is placed on a flat surface and it has a cartoon-like appearance, according to police. On real currency the watermark is only visible when held to the light, Moreck said. “But they found a way to get it on there,” he said, adding that pens used to test for real currency couldn’t detect the money as fake.

The “100” on the lower right of the bills has a bluish tint instead of the gold tone of real currency and the polyester thread that is embedded in the paper of real money was stamped on the fake bills.

Police were initially contacted about a counterfeit bill after the Russian wife of a store employee at the Montego Bay Super Thrift on 129th Street spotted it as a fake. The OCPD immediately sent patrol officers to resort businesses to warn them that counterfeit money was circulating and the United States Secret Service, Customs and Immigration agencies were notified.

Halperin and Sabag cashed in or attempted to pass fake $100 bills for small purchases at businesses that included Burger King, 7-Eleven, Highs, Royal Farms, CVS pharmacy, Wawa, Super Thrift, Beer Bellies, Rafters, 64th Street and 94th Street Beer and Wine, Ocean’s Market and True Value hardware, police said.

“They weren’t spending a lot,” Moreck said. “They weren’t living high on the hog at all.” He said the men purchased about 50 packs of cigarettes, a bottle of wine and personal items.

The pair spent the most money, about $95, at Wal-Mart where they purchased an air gun. Case said the men had been shooting the gun in the condo.

Witnesses at the various stores were able to give police a description of the men and the car they were driving, a large white sedan, and surveillance video showed Sabag entered some stores and allegedly tried to break a $100 bill for a small purchase. In at least one case the video shows a store clerk turning away Sabag.

Halperin was the driver and stayed in the get-away car, which was rented in his name on a visa card from a bank in Tel Aviv, according to police.

Police began surveillance of the men last Friday after tracking down their rental car
through the Hertz agency and finding out where they were staying in the resort. Halperin and Sabag rented a condo at 210 Worcester Street at the Assateague House with “good cash” and then went to work, according to Moreck.

“Their first order of business was to get some money to operate,” he said.

After allegedly passing numerous counterfeit bills on Thursday, the men traveled throughout town but didn’t try to change any fake money on Friday, police said.

Halperin and Sabag did, however, switch cars that day, telling Hertz that their car had a mechanical problem.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, Ocean City police followed the men into Delaware near Route 404 before abandoning their surveillance. Police say they believe Halperin and Sabag went to the Washington, D.C. area, spending the counterfeit money along the way.

Secret Service agents on Tuesday received notice that the men tendered a fake $100 bill at a gas station in Queenstown. Police say the men also passed a fake $100 at the Bay Bridge McDonald’s at 1:40 a.m. on Saturday – the food was later found in their car, mostly uneaten.

While they were gone, police acquired a search warrant for their condo and car but decided to wait to serve the warrant until they returned, Case said. The Secret Service and OCPD patrol officers kept watch over the condo and at about 4:30 a.m. Halperin and Sabag came back.

“We gave them a wake up call at 7 a.m.,” Moreck said, adding that there was “cash all over the place” when police entered the unit.

In the condo police say they found three fake $100 bills, $4,600 in good United States currency, receipts and bags from the stores where they changed the counterfeits, and the clothing, an Old Navy shirt and sweatshirt, that Sabag was wearing on one of the surveillance videos.

“All of the legitimate money was together in one big bank roll” tied up with rubber bands, Case said.

A plastic container filled with change was found by police in the men’s car.

Case said Sabag had been in the United States since 2001 but his visa has expired. He had a Pennsylvania identification card that police believe is false.

Halperin, who has ties to Rockville and Philadelphia, has a valid visa, a Maryland drivers license and a fake Rockville address, Case said.

He said Halperin was already known to the Secret Service because two women who had passed bad money elsewhere on Nov. 7 told agents they were staying with the man. He said Halperin makes frequent trips to Israel and was there from Oct. 20 to Nov. 6, 2003.

“Much like gypsies, they will hit and leave” spending the fake bills in a town, Case said.

He said counterfeit United States currency can be bought “for pennies on the dollar in foreign countries” and brought into the country and exchanged for legitimate money.

The Secret Service is still following the men’s trail to see if they passed counterfeit money anywhere else.

While Sabag reportedly told police that Halperin gave him the $100 bills, which he thought were real, and told him to go into the various businesses and get change for them, Case said the men have not cooperated with authorities.

Both men are being held on $250,000 bond. They are being charged with numerous counts of theft and counterfeiting. 

 



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