Bogus Benjamins Land Couple in Jail

False Bills Purportedly Passed at Businesses Throughout County

Two people have been arrested for allegedly using fake $100 bills as payment at a number of businesses in Solvang, Lompoc, and Buellton.

Drew Sugars with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department said that around 1 p.m. on Monday, deputies were called to downtown Solvang on a report that a man was trying to pass a counterfeit bill at a nearby business. As they searched for the suspect, deputies received another call that the man was attempting the same scam at another nearby shop, said Sugars.

Authorities were able to detain the suspect — 34-year-old Bryan Pelaez of North Hills, California — as he exited the second store. “Deputies credit several businesses for alerting each other of the potential counterfeiter and being productive in calling law enforcement,” said Sugars. Pelaez originally gave deputies a false name, but they were soon able to discover his true identity and learned he was an at-large parolee wanted by the Department of Corrections.

A search of Pelaez’s wallet and car turned up numerous false $100 bills and evidence of counterfeiting, said Sugars. And a further search of his motel room in the 1400 block of Mission Drive turned up even more fake cash as well as materials, supplies, and equipment used for counterfeiting.

Secret Service agents were called in to interview the suspect as well as his girlfriend — 26-year-old Alexandra Lee Cleveland of Burbank, California — who was in the motel room when deputies arrived.

Pelaez was booked into County Jail on a no bail parolee hold. Cleveland was booked as well and is facing two felony counterfeiting charges, felony possession of a dangerous weapon (brass knuckles), and a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance. Her bail is $20,000.

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