Richard Melella, 43, of Clovis, and Christina Williams, 25, of Fresno, California, have been arrested and charged in a four-count indictment with conspiring to buy, receive, alter and pass counterfeit U.S. currency, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Williams was arraigned on the indictment today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin; Melella is scheduled to be arraigned on July 8, 2013.
According to the indictment, in September 2012, Melella and Williams used genuine U.S. currency to purchase from a third-party approximately 54 counterfeited $100 bills. Williams attempted to make the counterfeited currency appear more authentic by using a marker to cover the security strip on the bills. On at least one occasion, Melella passed some of the counterfeited currency at a Fresno grocery store.
The maximum statutory penalty for the counterfeiting conspiracy charge is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the charges of making, dealing and passing counterfeit currency is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The actual sentence, if convicted, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Baker is prosecuting the case.