5 booked in counterfeit operation

BR businesses victimized in spree

Five Texas residents were arrested Tuesday in Baton Rouge after they allegedly embarked on a shopping spree on Dec. 29-30 that left as many as two dozen area businesses with counterfeit $100 bills.

East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies received an anonymous tip on New Year’s Eve that five people, one man and four women, had been going around town buying small items and paying with fake $100 bills so they would get change back, causing the business to suffer a large financial loss, spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, one of the suspects walked into a business on Siegen Lane on Sunday with one of the bills and when the cashier noticed the bill was fake, the woman walked out and left in a white Dodge Charger with a black stripe on the hood and sped away.

That car and another one used in the crimes, a Nissan Maxima, both have Texas license plates, the affidavit said.

Deputies also investigated an incident recently at a restaurant on Bluebonnet Boulevard and businesses on Perkins Road in which counterfeit $100 bills were used, the affidavit said.

Detectives learned the five people were staying at a hotel on Reiger Road, and when investigators arrived at the hotel, they found several boxes from area stores and a large amount of cash laying around in plain sight when one of the suspects opened the door, Hicks said.

Detectives took them in for questioning, and during the interviews, one suspect said they got the fake bills in Houston and drove to several cities to make purchases with the fake money, Hicks said.

Others said the man, Victor Henry, 22, would give the women the money to go shopping and when they returned to the hotel, they would give him the change they received from the stores, Hicks said.

At that time, he would give them their cut from the transactions, which was usually between $150 and $300, depending on how much money they brought back, the affidavit said.

The women would divide into teams of two and go to several businesses while Henry stayed at the hotel, the affidavit said.

“One suspect stated there were too many bills for her to remember how many they had passed off,” Hicks said.

Based on the confessions from some of the suspects, detectives obtained a search warrant for three rooms at the hotel, where they found more counterfeit bills in each room, Hicks said.

Hicks said detectives reached out to the U.S. Secret Service for assistance and those agents will coordinate the investigation with law enforcement officials in Houston and other cities where the five were found to have used the fake money.

The following suspects were booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on four counts monetary instrument abuse and misdemeanor theft: Henry, 22, 5631 Southbrook Drive, Houston; Mazarati Esset, 22, 12122 Panay Drive, Houston; Tabatha Jolivet, 22, 3830 Hickok Lane, Houston; Krystal Noriega, 23, 1518 Rogers Lake Lane, Houston; Kayla Peterson, 22, 722 Vista Road, Pasadena, Texas.

“(Henry) stated that he was willing to discuss who provided him with the counterfeit money in Houston if it would help diminish his consequences in Baton Rouge,” the affidavit said.

Hicks said detectives are still processing the evidence and do not know how many fake bills they confiscated.

She said the five could face more counts of monetary instrument abuse and theft, depending on the number of businesses where they used counterfeit bills.

Businesses that think the group passed off a counterfeit bill there are asked to contact their local law enforcement agency to make a report, Hicks said.