Home Depot employee exchanged $387,500 in counterfeit bills for real ones, officials say

Adrian Jean Pineda had an entry-level job at a Home Depot in 2018, working as a vault associate in Tempe, Arizona, responsible for count...


Adrian Jean Pineda had an entry-level job at a Home Depot in 2018, working as a vault associate in Tempe, Arizona, responsible for counting cash from ledgers, placing it in sealed bags, and storing it. deposit at a local Wells Fargo bank. .

Over the next four years, however, the bank found $100 bills in store deposits with “PLAYMONEY” written as the serial number – a clear sign of backing currency, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. federal.

The problem continued, losses skyrocketed, and in December Home Depot contacted the US Secret Service. The agency accused Mr. Pineda last month of exchanging $387,500 of the store’s real cash for counterfeit notes.

“He was just in a very good position to commit the crime,” Frank Boudreaux Jr., the special agent in charge of the US Secret Service office in Phoenix, said Sunday. He added that it was rare for someone to pass so much counterfeit money before being caught.

Messages left at phone numbers listed as belonging to Mr Pineda were not immediately returned on Sunday. A manager at the store where Mr. Pineda worked declined to be interviewed and no company representative could be immediately reached.

The scheme began in January 2018, according to the complaint, and began to unravel late last year after Home Depot detected a large number of fake invoices from a particular store, Mr. Boudreaux.

Mr. Pineda bought $100 bills from Amazon, which are used for parties and pranks and in television and film productions. Tickets are accurately scaled and contain text found on the real ones. He brought about $800 to $1,200 worth of counterfeit money to work at a time, Boudreaux said.

After cashiers brought the day’s receipts from the tills to Mr. Pineda, he exchanged real notes for counterfeit ones, stuffing crumpled handfuls of real money into his pocket, according to the complaint. CCTV cameras caught him doing this at least 16 times, according to the complaint.

The prop bills, which cost $8.96 for a pack of 100 individual $100 bills, look “very realistic,” Boudreaux said. They feature a perfectly printed Benjamin Franklin and, next to his face, a vertical blue line, similar to 3D security tape found on actual invoices.

But the similarities end when it comes to texture. Real banknotes, made of cotton and linen, have a thicker feel. The fake invoices look like paper, like a page from a notebook, Boudreaux said.

Still, bills for accessories sold by Amazon and other stores cause problems for investigators. “I wish they hadn’t sold it,” Mr. Boudreaux said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

As Mr. Pineda accumulated more and more real money, his lifestyle began to exceed the typical budget of someone in his position, Mr. Boudreaux said. For example, he paid for a personal trainer and a new car.

“It was obvious that he was spending a lot more than he was earning,” said Mr. Boudreaux, who did not know how much Mr. Pineda earned.

When Mr. Boudreaux and his colleagues began their investigation, they subpoenaed Mr. Pineda’s Amazon records and found one particular and telling statistic. The total value of all counterfeit notes Mr. Pineda had purchased was approximately the same as the total loss attributed to counterfeit money at the Home Depot store.

“So that kind of tied it all together,” Boudreaux said.

At around 4 a.m. on January 31, Mr. Pineda arrived at work to start his shift. It was then that a Home Depot manager confronted him, according to the complaint, which said Mr Pineda had admitted to the manager that he had indeed exchanged the money.

According to a Press release. Mr. Pineda, who is due in court on Monday, has agreed to pay restitution, Mr. Boudreaux said.

At the time of Mr. Pineda’s arrest, Secret Service agents seized $5,000 in counterfeit money and recovered $5,300 in genuine money. An additional $22,000 in real currency was recovered from Mr. Pineda’s home.

Mr. Pineda was able to get away with the scheme for so long, Mr. Boudreaux said, because “it bypassed the first layer of counterfeit detection – the cashier.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Home Depot employee exchanged $387,500 in counterfeit bills for real ones, officials say
Home Depot employee exchanged $387,500 in counterfeit bills for real ones, officials say
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