Police arrested a UCSB student and three other young adults late last month for counterfeiting $20 bills and spending them in Isla Vista.
Authorities charged all four suspects with forgery and conspiracy for making purchases with counterfeit money at I.V. Drip, Freebirds and Deja Vu. Police are currently unsure of the amount of fake currency in circulation but are continuing their investigation. A report has also been filed with the Secret Service, which may lead to federal charges against the counterfeiters.
Deputy Anthony DeLeo said the counterfeiters were making high-quality fakes.
“They were using an ink check printer and they were copying a regular $20 bill on it,” DeLeo said. “They were actually really good copies. With today’s technology the printers work pretty good.”
The County Sheriff began investigating the bills after Isla Vista storeowners reported receiving the counterfeit money on April 16. Witnesses identified the counterfeiters as driving a silver sports car, which deputies tracked down four days later.
While searching the car, officers found one of the $20 bills that had been circulated to Isla Vista restaurants. The driver, 19-year-old Rebecca Shintaku, and her passenger, 19-year-old Jack Antonsen, were arrested, subsequently leading authorities to the remaining two suspects, 19-year-old Tyler Yarnell and UCSB student Wan Peng.
As part of the investigation, police searched a Santa Barbara apartment where they found fake bills and counterfeiting materials. They determined that while the phony currency was printed with a high-quality printer, it was printed on low-quality paper.
DeLeo said merchants identified the fakes by their irregular feel.
“Some were identified with the counterfeit pen,” DeLeo said. “Some of the merchants, when they received it, they would say, ‘Hey this doesn’t feel right. It’s a fake.’”
In addition to identifying the bills on site, local banks also identified bills that cashiers failed to recognize.
Kevin Guerrero, manager of Freebirds in Isla Vista, said his restaurant received $60 in phony currency. A Freebirds cashier recognized the fake after a purchase was already completed.
“As soon as you touch them they feel fake,” Guerrero said.