ST. GEORGE – Two St. George residents are facing multiple felony charges after counterfeit money was discovered by police during a traffic stop Wednesday evening.
Daniel Etta, 36, and Jennifer Higginson, 35, both of St. George, were pulled over by St. George Police in the area of 400 E. St. George Blvd. at approximately 11:15 p.m. after an officer ran their car’s license plate and found the vehicle potentially lacked proof of insurance, according to a probable cause statement filed in support of the arrests.
After being pulled over, the officer told Etta, the driver, why he was pulled over and asked for his license and proof of insurance. Etta produced two licenses – one out of Florida that had expired in 2010, and the other out of California. Etta told the officer the California license was “withdrawn,” which is why he provided the Florida license.
Etta also provided an insurance card, but a check into the state system showed the insurance had either been changed or canceled. The insurance company was called, but the officer was unable to reach anyone due to the late hour.
It was at this at time the officer discovered Etta had two warrants out for his arrest. He proceeded to arrest Etta and tell him his rights. Higginson, the passenger in the car, was asked to get out, as the car was going to be impounded.
A second officer began to take inventory of items inside the car and discovered a zipper pouch that allegedly contained a glass pipe and a plastic bag with suspected methamphetamine inside it. When Etta was told what had been found, he adamantly denied knowing anything about the items.
At this point, Higginson was also placed under arrest and read her rights. She also denied knowing anything about the pouch and its contents.
Officers observed Higgison had a “large purse” and advised her that she couldn’t take it to the jail, although a wallet and money could be taken there for her by the officers. She told them the purse could stay with the car.
One of the officers began to search the purse and found a $20 bill and two $50 bills loose inside that appeared to be counterfeit.
“I could tell due to the differing colors and incorrect watermarks on them,” the officer wrote in the statement.
A money clip was also found that contained a mix of what appeared to be legitimate and counterfeit bills.
The officer asked Etta about the bills. Etta told police he had some money from a deposit return from his Las Vegas apartment, and that he suspected the bills could be fake as the ink on them smudged when wet.
Higginson initially denied knowing the bills were fake but later admitted otherwise, according to the probable cause statement. She also denied being the one who printed the counterfeits and refused to tell police where the bills came from.
However, Higginson allegedly told police that the she had purchased meth earlier that day and Etta was with her, though he stayed in the car while the purchase was made. She also told police the glass pipe belonged to her, according to the statement.
Both Etta and Higginson were booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility. Each was charged with four third-degree felonies connected to the counterfeit bills, one third-degree felony each for drug possession, and a class A misdemeanor each for drug paraphernalia. Etta also faces charges from the two warrants that initially triggered his arrest.
Following his arrest, Etta was charged with another five third-degree felonies for forgery, as well as two class B misdemeanors for theft by deception and knowingly trespassing where he wasn’t permitted.
The additional charges stem from Etta allegedly using five counterfeit $100 bills to purchase five prepaid Visa cards from the Wal-Mart in Washington City. Surveillance video from the store allegedly shows Etta entering Wal-Mart prior to his arrest Wednesday. Etta was also previously banned from Wal-Mart for life, according to a probable cause statement.
In all, Etta faces nine felony charges connected to the counterfeit bills.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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