$20 Million in Bogus Bills Seized, Agents Say; Man Arrested

Times Staff Writers

In what may be the largest seizure of counterfeit money in U.S. history, federal agents announced Monday that they had confiscated more than $20 million in bogus $100 bills and arrested a Santa Ana man after two accomplices tried to pass some of the phony cash at a department store.

Secret Service agents arrested Julio Antonio Marmol, 41, at his accomplices' home Friday in Costa Mesa and searched his Santa Ana home the next day, authorities said.

"This represents one of the largest counterfeit seizures in the history of the United States Secret Service," said Richard Griffin, special agent in charge of the agency's Los Angeles office.

Earlier this year in New York City, agents confiscated $22,048,000 in bills, Griffin said at a press conference Monday in Los Angeles.

In the Orange County case, most of the phony money--along with printing plates, photographic negatives and other counterfeiting paraphernalia--was taken from the garage at Marmol's home in the 4200 block of West Regent Drive, Griffin said.

An undetermined amount of the counterfeit money also was found Saturday in Marmol's safety deposit box at California Federal in Costa Mesa, a bank spokesman said.

"The Secret Service carted out 20 bundles of bills," said John C. Kaufman. "But we don't know how much that represented. We have a policy on what goes into safety deposit boxes: We don't want to know."

Marmol, a Cuban native, apparently is part of a larger counterfeiting ring, authorities said.

Griffin added: "I think the biggest fish got caught. There are further leads we will try and follow to make sure no smaller fish got away."

The bogus $100 notes first appeared in the Los Angeles area about two weeks ago, Griffin said. "They have not appeared anywhere else in the country," and only a "handful" have been passed, he added.

Agents were first tipped to the operation when a Costa Mesa couple tried to pass a counterfeit $100 bill at a Nordstrom department store in Santa Ana, according to court records. The couple told Secret Service agents that Marmol had befriended them two months earlier. A few days earlier he gave them $10,000 in phony $100 bills, in return for which they promised to give him $5,000 in real money later.

Money Handed Over

After being contacted by Secret Service agents, the couple agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

On Friday, agents staking out Marmol's Santa Ana home followed him to the couple's Costa Mesa residence, where they arrested him after the couple handed him $500 in genuine currency supplied by the agents, court records show.

U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner filed a federal criminal complaint Monday charging Marmol with two counts of possession of counterfeit currency and one count of dealing in counterfeit currency. Each of the two possession counts carries a maximum penalty of 15 years and a $250,000 fine; the other count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Marmol is being held without bail at the federal prison on Terminal Island.

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