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Four people were busted in a $16G casino counterfeiting scheme

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    Four Philadelphians have been charged for allegedly passing $16,000 worth of counterfeit bills at casinos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in April 2019, including 20 counterfeit $100 bills circulated at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in Chester.

    Mahagany White, 33, of the 500 block of North Felton Street, Marcus Davis, 44, of the 600 block of North 13th Street, Nieem Johnson, 37, of the 4400 block of Leiper Street, and Kiara Kristin Purnell, 31, of the 1700 block of Watkins Street, each face charges of forgery, theft by deception, possessing instruments of crime and conspiracy. The charges were filed in Bucks County by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Investigations Gaming Unit and troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police’s Bureau of Gaming Enforcement.

    According to affidavits of probable cause written by AOG Special Agent Kevin M. Schofield and PSP Corporal Jeffrey Miller, the defendants began circulating the bogus bills at Sugarhouse Casino (now Rivers Casino Philadelphia) on April 6 and 7. Employees there reported finding 18 counterfeit $100 bills, all with the same serial number, and reviewed surveillance tapes of the tables where the bogus bills had been played, according to the affidavit.

    That video allegedly showed White and Purnell entering and exiting the casino in the same vehicle and passing the bills at two “Spanish21 Blackjack” tables over the course of two days. Purnell spoke to investigators in January and confirmed she was at the casino those days with White, but said she was unaware that she had passed any counterfeit bills, according to the affidavit.

    Purnell also allegedly said that if she did accidentally use counterfeit bills, she would have gotten them as change from a prior transaction, but could not say what kind of transaction resulted in her receiving multiple $100 bills as change.

    Johnson passed another 25 bogus bills at two Parx Casino tables and 20 phony bills at two Harrah’s tables on April 7, according to the affidavit. In each instance, Johnson would “buy in” using a mix of older style bills believed be the counterfeits and newer style bills that were legitimate currency, play a few hands, and then cash out, according to the affidavit.

    Johnson allegedly used the same vehicle as Purnell and White in the Sugarhouse incidents, and was accompanied by an unknown female at Parx, who cashed out some of the chips, according to the affidavit.

    The affidavit also identifies Johnson as passing another 20 counterfeit $100 bills at Valley Forge Casino April 11, and Johnson and Davis allegedly passed another 77 counterfeit $100 bills at Sands Casino April 18.

    Johnson allegedly attempted to pull the same stunt at the Hard Rock Cafe Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on April 20, but the table dealer in that instance became suspicious and called over a supervisor, who called in security.

    Johnson presented his identification to security when requested, according to the affidavit, and unsuccessfully attempted to grab it back before fleeing the business. Review of surveillance footage showed Johnson arrived that night with White and Purnell, both of whom bought-in at tables, played minimally, then cashed out and left, according to the affidavit.

    Investigators were also made aware of an apparent counterfeiting operation connected to the bills that was discovered inside a room at the Extended Stay America Hotel at 9000 Tinicum Boulevard in Philadelphia on April 11.

    Employees there told Secret Service agents that a man identified as “F.P.” checked in April 10, but did not check out as expected the following day. When staff went to the room, they discovered printer pages containing images of a 1985 $100 bill bearing the same serial number as the counterfeit bills passed at the casinos, several partially made counterfeit bills, and a printer with printer ink.

    Staff reportedly told the agents they had also found two bowls containing what appeared to be bleach with a layer of green liquid on top. The bowls were believed to have been used to bleach $1 bills so the image of the counterfeit $100 bill could be printed over them, according to the affidavit.

    Following that discovery, agents investigated F.P. and discovered they were wanted on an arrest warrant out of Virginia for passing counterfeit bills bearing the same serial number as those used at the casinos last year, according to the affidavit.

    White is being held at the Bucks County prison in lieu of 10% of $100,000 cash bail and is schedule for a preliminary hearing Dec. 30 before Magisterial District Judge Joseph F. Falcone, according to online court records. Davis is also awaiting a Dec. 30 preliminary hearing before Falcone and was given a $100,000 cash bail amount.

    Johnson is currently being held at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility pending unrelated charges. Online court records listed his case as inactive. A fugitive warrant has been issued for Purnell.


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