ST. GEORGE — Police arrested a California couple earlier this week for allegedly producing and using counterfeit $100 bills.
Dean Anthony Fagas, 46, of Barstow, California, and Crista Jeanette Avila, 38, of Canyon County, California, were arrested and booked into the Purgatory Correctional Facility Monday for multiple felonies related to forgery and other offenses. An additional felony for the theft of a rental vehicle was added Wednesday.
According to police records, employees at the Smith’s supermarket on Bluff Street contacted police after they grew suspicious of a woman, identified as Avila, attempting to use a $100 bill they believed was counterfeit. Responding police officers were supplied with surveillance video of the woman as well as a description of the car she drove.
Police later spotted the car, a red 2018 Ford Eclipse, in the parking lot of the Walgreens on St. George Boulevard where police also found and detained Avila. While detained she was found to have five fake $100 bill on her.
After Avila was arrested she told officers that she knew the money was fake and she had tried to use one of the bills at Smith’s earlier that day. When employees became suspicious she withdrew it and used real cash instead, according to police.
Avila also used the counterfeit bills at the Walmart on Pioneer Road, as well as at a wireless communications store where she purchased of a cell phone prior to her arrest, according to police.
The source of the bills, Avila told police, was her boyfriend, Fagas, who was taking $1 bills, washing them with acetone, and then using a computer and printer to reprint them as $100 bills back at their hotel room.
“Crista said Dean would give her the fake $100 bills and instruct her to go the stores and pass them,” police records state. “She would then give him the change after doing so.”
Fagas is also alleged to have told to Avila to a buy certain items at Home Depot and then place them on will call after paying with real money. Fagas would then go into the store and get the items using the will call paperwork, and then leave the store with items and tell Avila to cancel the will call in order to get the money back.
“Dean would then return the items back for cash money, defrauding Home Depot,” police records state. “She referred to this practice as ‘doubling up,’ and admitted that she and Dean had attempted this on 10/15/2018 at the Home Depot on Sunset (Boulevard) in St George, but they had been unsuccessful.”
The scheme had been successful at a Home Depot in Provo, Avila told police. If the attempt had worked at the St. George location, it could have defrauded the store out of nearly $900, based on a Home Depot receipt found in Avila’s purse.
Police found Fagas at an area motel where he was detained while a search warrant for the motel room was obtained. Officers found the computer equipment and other items used for counterfeiting that Avila mentioned.
After he was arrested, Fagas told police that he and Avila had gone to Sandy to visit a friend and were on their way back to California, adding the Avila had left the motel that morning.
“Dean denied being involved in any fraudulent activity,” police records state. “He admitted that he didn’t trust Crista to drive so he drove her everywhere. He confirmed that he drove Crista to Walmart as well as Smith’s. He said he was aware of Crista’s criminal past with fraud.”
He also said Avila was bad with money and that he handles it instead.
Police told Fagas it didn’t make sense for him to be unaware of Avila’s making fake money and using it at the stores, only to give him the change afterward, especially given they had been around each other all that time.
“He said he understood that it did not make sense, but was adamant that he was not involved,” police records state.
After being taken to the county jail, Fagas reportedly admitted he knew what Avila had been doing.
Avila had also told police that she and Fagas both used and sold methamphetamine. Just under an ounce of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia was found in the hotel room.
Fagas said he had used methamphetamine in the past, yet wasn’t sure how long ago.
Two days later, police were contacted about the red Ford Eclipse left in the Walgreens parking lot after Avila’s arrest. It turned out to be stolen and was a rental car registered to a company out of Barstow, California, police records state.
Aliva was asked about the car and she said she wasn’t aware the vehicle needed to be returned, and assumed there would have just been an extra fee to pay for having it for so long.
She also said she wasn’t involved in signing the rental contract for the car, as her mother and Fagas were the signer and co-signer, which was confirmed by police.
Avila and Fagas are being held at the Purgatory Correctional Facility and have court appearances set for next week.
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