Five people believed to be the masterminds behind a recent Southeast Missouri counterfeiting ring were indicted on federal charges last month, according to federal court documents unsealed Friday.
Darius Robinson, Brynet Trice, Terry Hester, Darius Lankford and Jessica Gross all face federal counterfeiting charges for their roles in the alleged manufacturing, distribution and use of fake $20 and $10 bills in early October. The bills turned up in businesses in Cape Girardeau, Dexter, Mo., Sikeston, Mo., and Poplar Bluff, Mo.
The five suspects were indicted Nov. 17, but federal court documents remained sealed until Friday because at least one suspect was still at large and any public knowledge could have compromised the investigation, according to a motion submitted by federal prosecutor Paul Hahn.
Hahn declined to comment on the case.
Robinson, 22, and Hester, 27, are accused of publishing and using fake $20 bills at Champs, a clothing store located at West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau, on Oct. 5. Robinson is also charged with publishing and using fake $20 bills at Finish Line in West Park Mall the same day.
Trice, 19, Hester, Gross, 25, and Lankford, 28, are all charged with publishing and using fake $10 bills at a Walmart in Poplar Bluff on Oct. 6. Trice, Hester and Lankford are charged with publishing and using fake $20 bills at Goody's clothing store in Sikeston, a Save-A-Lot grocery store in Dexter and a Buffalo Wild Wings in Sikeston on Oct. 6.
Gross is also accused of trying to pass fake $50 bills at JD's Quick Stop convenience store in Poplar Bluff.
Robinson and Gross pleaded not guilty to their respective charges at their arraignments, while Trice was arraigned but appears to have not entered a plea, according to court documents.
Hester and Lankford have not been arraigned.
Trice and Robinson were the first two suspects arrested in connection to the fake bills in October. When he was arrested, Robinson had six fake bills with him, according to Poplar Bluff police. They originally faced state forgery charges before they were remanded to federal custody.
While interviewing with police, Trice named Gross, Lankford and Hester as her co-conspirators. They remained at large before being arrested on an undisclosed date. Once they were in custody, Hahn found it safe to unseal the documents pertaining to the case, according to court documents.
On Dec. 7, Hahn filed a motion to detain Hester until his trial because he appeared to be a flight risk.
According to documents pertaining to discovery of evidence, the prosecution may use the fake bills, surveillance video footage of Gross at Walmart and JD's Quick Stop, merchandise receipts and a recorded interview Gross did with an investigator Nov. 30 as evidence against her.
Documents also reveal that the prosecution may use the fake bills, merchandise receipts, surveillance video of Trice at Walmart and Save-A-Lot and recorded interviews Trice did with an investigator Oct. 11 and Nov. 4 as evidence against her.
In its case against Robinson, the prosecution notes that it has the fake bills, surveillance videos of Robinson allegedly trying to pass bills at China Star in Cape Girardeau and Hibbett Sports in Sikeston, Air Jordan shoes Robinson allegedly purchased with fake bills and an interview Robinson did with an investigator Nov. 4.
Robinson is represented by attorney Scott Tilsen, who declined to comment on the case, while Trice is represented by Rebecca Reed, who also declined to comment. A call to Patrick McMenamin, Gross' attorney, was not immediately returned Monday. Hester and Lankford do not have attorneys yet, according to court documents.
According to federal guidelines, counterfeiting can land convicted offenders at least four months in a federal penitentiary.
Eight instances of counterfeit bills in Cape Girardeau have occurred since October, but police are unsure whether they're all connected to the five suspects who were recently indicted. All bills obtained by police have been turned over to the Secret Service.
In several instances, authorities described the bills as poorly made.
Robinson will appear in court Wednesday, while Gross will appear Dec. 28. Trice's next court date was set for Wednesday but has been rescheduled to a later date, and Lankford and Hester are still waiting to be arraigned.
499 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.
3049 William St. Cape Girardeau, Mo.
912 W. Business US Highway 60, Dexter, Mo.
333 S. Westwood Blvd., Poplar Bluff, Mo.
1209 S. Main St., Sikeston, Mo.
231 N. Main St., Sikeston, Mo.
1529 N. Main St., Poplar Bluff, Mo.