Police: Couple arrested after attempt to pass fake bill at fast-food restaurant in St. George

Composite image with background photo by Ofc Picture/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — An incident that started with a report of a fake bill being passed at a fast-food restaurant on St. George Boulevard morphed into two suspects being arrested and charged with multiple counts of counterfeiting Monday evening.

Samantha Michelle Picinich, 27, of Washington City, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, July 27, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St George News

The incident was reported shortly after 5:30 p.m. Monday, when officers responded to a business on St. George Boulevard after receiving a call that a man attempted to pay for his food at Taco Bell using what appeared to be a fake $100 bill.

The caller also provided a description of the suspect, who they reported was last seen running across the street toward Walgreens, according to charging documents filed with the court. 

Officers located a man near Walgreens who matched the description of the suspect provided by the restaurant. The suspect was later identified as 28-year-old Luis Eduardo Morales-Beltran, of St. George, who was detained by police for questioning. 

Meanwhile, officers also learned that Beltran was with a woman, later identified as Samantha Picinich, 27, of Washington City, who was waiting in the checkout line at Walgreens at the same time officers were speaking with Beltran. 

Picinich was located in the checkout line at Walgreens, and when asked if she was with the suspect, she initially denied being with Beltran but told officers that she knew him. While waiting in line, the suspect placed her clear plastic wallet on the counter, appearing to look for money.

Looking at the wallet, officers “could clearly see two syringes and a baggie with a white crystal-like residue,” which is when the officers told Picinich she was being detained as they walked her out of the store. 

Officers, who were still speaking with Beltran, discovered that the couple were staying at a motel in the area, and when they left on foot an hour or so earlier, Picinich allegedly handed Beltran a $100 bill and told him to go get something from Taco Bell and then meet her at Walgreens with the change.

According to the report, the woman gave a similar statement to police, adding that she told Beltran if the $100 bill “did not work,” then to come over to the Walgreens and let her know. 

Luis Eduardo Morales-Beltran, 28, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, July 27, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St George News

When Beltran passed the bill at Taco Bell, the employee called the police. While the clerk was on the phone with emergency dispatch, however, the suspect told officers that he ran out of the restaurant and continued across the street toward Walgreens on foot. 

When confronted with Beltran’s statement, Picinich changed her account of how she met up with the suspect multiple times, the officer noted in the report. She said she had no ID on her as she provided her first name with a different last name, which did not return to any individual when officers attempted to verify the suspect’s identity with dispatch. 

When officers asked again, Picinich provided the correct information, telling officers she thought they “wanted to know her mother’s maiden name,” the officer noted in the report.  

Picinich also admitted to having three additional $100 bills that were fake. After learning there was video footage that would show her handing the fake bill to Beltran, Picinich quickly asked if the cameras would also show Beltran at the motel when he attempted to hand the fake bills over to her, officers said.

“Samantha was not truthful from the very beginning,” the officer noted, and when confronted, she told police she was “just confused about the questions.” 

Through the course of the investigation, officers learned that the two met up at the motel, where the pair were allegedly smoking and shooting up meth and discussing how the counterfeit bills would be used. 

Beltran’s statements were “truthful” from the beginning, according to police, and much of his account was confirmed from items found during a search of the motel room. 

Both suspects were arrested and transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, each facing four third-degree felony counts of possession of a forged device. Picinich also faces third-degree felony drug possession as well as a misdemeanor charge for providing false information to a police officer and possession of paraphernalia. 

Picinich was also booked on three outstanding felony warrants issued on cases filed within the last four months involving forgery, theft and other charges and convictions. She is being held on $28,000 bail.

In addition to other charges, Beltran was booked on a paraphernalia charge as well as three misdemeanor warrants out of justice court. He remains in custody on $5,010 bail. 

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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