U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced Tuesday that a Buffalo couple was arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture and pass counterfeit United States currency.
From December 2022 to March 2023, the defendants, 36-year-old Eric Butson and 41-year-old Catalina Hernandez, allegedly conspired to manufacture and pass counterfeit money in stores, restaurants, and shops.
On Jan. 10, 2023, Butson and Hernandez used a counterfeit $100 bill to make a purchase at Watson's Chocolates on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.
Watson's Chocolates reported the incident and provided surveillance video to the U.S. Secret Service.
Later investigation determined that Butson and Hernandez, both wearing Covid masks, successfully passed or attempted to pass counterfeit $100 bills that all bore the same serial number as the bill used at Watson's Chocolates.
The $100 bills were used at the following businesses:
- Sunshine and Bluebirds
- Elmwood Pet Supplies
- Hydraulic Hearth
- Left Bank Restaurant
- Jim's Steakout
- Cheesy Chick Cafè
- Humbert House Restaurant
On Feb. 6, 2023, investigators pulled trash from the couple's Orlando Street residence. An ink cartridge, a partial counterfeit bill, printer paper, receipts, bags from businesses on Elmwood Avenue where the bills were passed, and handwritten addresses of the same businesses were found.
As of Tuesday, Butson and Hernandez have attempted to pass counterfeit bills at over 50 businesses in the greater Buffalo area. They are also charged in the towns of Amherst and West Seneca with passing counterfeit bills.
The charges against Butson and Hernandez carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Both defendants are being held pending a detention hearing on March 24, 2023.
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