A quartet of counterfeiters originally emanating out of Bakersfield were busted by Santa Barbara law enforcement officials for allegedly attempting to fob off three counterfeit $100 bills in Solvang and then pocketing the change. Details on the bust are being kept to a minimum as the Secret Service is investigating how extensive a counterfeiting ring the group might be, so it remains uncertain what items they sought to purchase and from what shops.
Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover said she could not answer, for example, if the group sought to use the bogus bills to purchase Solvang’s signature dish, aebleskivers. “I’ll have to check with our detectives,” she said. The quartet allegedly used the funny money in Santa Maria as well. Hoover declined to explain what techniques they employed to make the counterfeit bills or speculate on the quality of their handiwork. She did note that one of the Solvang shop owners was suspicious and called the Sheriff’s Office.
Arrested in Solvang were Tanya Lee Rose, 42; Melissa Jones, 42; and Doreen Rowland, 48, all from Bakersfield. Also arrested was 40-year-old Thomas Berchtold of San Luis Obispo, but formerly a Bakersfield resident as well. Hoover said video footage of the alleged scam artists taken by security cameras in a shop owned by one of the victims helped law enforcement authorities spot the crew ensconced in a car in a Solvang parking lot before they could get out of town. There authorities found numerous counterfeit bills, “washed” bills, and undisclosed materials that could have been used to make other counterfeit bills.
In addition, the suspects’ car contained quantities of methamphetamine, as well as a bottle of Popov vodka. Although the bills were sufficiently questionable as to arouse the skepticism of at least one shop owner, authorities described the fake bills as sophisticated enough to notify the U.S. Secret Service.