Pinellas counterfeiting & money laundering scheme has Cali link - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas counterfeiting & money laundering scheme has Cali link

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Sheriff Bob Gualtieri Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Monday afternoon, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced the arrest of 46-year-old Christopher William DiPasquale of Clearwater and 35-year-old Robert Stanley Kowalczyk of Santa Clarita, CA for the production of counterfeit bills; and a money laundering scheme that targeted multiple department store chains in Florida and California.  The victims in this case are various well know department stores to include Home Depot, Lowes, Macy's and Walmart.  At this point, detectives said they have recovered about $100,000 in counterfeit bills.

Sheriff Gualtieri said detectives began their investigation in November of 2012 after it was determined that counterfeit bills were being passed locally.  The investigation, produced suspect DiPasquale as the individual possibly printing and passing counterfeit $100 bills, said Sheriff Gualtieri.

A subsequent investigation, which included surveillance, led to the discovery of an elaborate scheme in which the DiPasquale was engaged in a process of bleaching $1 bills and then printing over them to convert them into $100 dollar bills.  Sheriff Gualtieri said the printing was determined to be occurring within the DiPasquale's residence located at 1800 Bay Shore Way in Clearwater. 

According to investigators, DiPasquale would then enter retailers and purchase items with the counterfeit $100 notes.  Detectives say DiPasquale would then systematically return the purchased items to the retail outlets, receiving US Currency in exchange and allowing the him to launder extensive amounts of counterfeit.

Sheriff Gualtieri said that on multiple occasions DiPasquale was observed conducting counterfeit transactions, as well as returns, at various Walmart's, Home Depot's and Lowe's.  On February 20, Sheriff Gualtieri said DiPasquale was observed driving north on US Highway 19 and observed entering Walmart's and Lowe's from Brooksville to Ocala.  He would enter the business and make purchase (with the counterfeit bills) and/or return items (receiving US currency in exchange).

After numerous transactions, detectives said Dipasquale returned to his residence, still in possession of some property.  Detectives executed a search warrant at the home and recovered sale receipts and counterfeit bills.  Sheriff Gualtieri said DiPasquale was arrested for dealing in stolen property and distributing forged bills. Additional charges remained pending.  Detectives say DiPasquale's activity occurred in 16 counties across the state from Jacksonville to Miami-Dade and occurred over a period of about two years.

During this time frame, Sheriff Gualtieri said investigators also learned that suspect Kowalczyk, who had been arrested in California for possession of Methamphetamine, was also found to be in possession of counterfeit notes.

Detectives determined that Kowalczyk manufactured counterfeit currency in California, passed the fake bills at department stores and then returned them in exchange for real currency.  Sheriff Gualtieri said Kowalczyk's activities went on for about four years and were determined to be linked to those of DiPasquale in Florida.

Sheriff Gualtieri said after being released on bond March 3, Kowalczyk traveled from California to Florida for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing additional counterfeit currency throughout the state of Florida.

Kowalczyk was arrested on March 4, 2013 at the Clearwater home of DiPasquale and found to be in possession of 41 washed US treasury notes, a laptop computer, storage drives and additional counterfeiting tools.  Authorities said Kowalczyk was arrested for Money Laundering, Bringing Counterfeit Notes into the States and Possession of Instruments for Counterfeiting bills.

Sheriff Gualtieri said DiPasquale, who had also been released on bond, was arrested on March 7 for Money Laundering.

Sheriff Gualtieri said the arrests are the result of,  "good police work and dedicated surveillance work." Sheriff Gualtieri also commended the joint effort of  the participating agencies to include the Secret Service and the Statewide Prosecutor.

"This joint investigation was successful due to the dedicated efforts of the Pinellas County SO, the Statewide Prosecutor and the US Secret Service. With the strength of our financial crimes task force, agents and deputies worked in concert to identify, investigate and address a large counterfeiting and money laundering scheme that affected citizens throughout the state of Florida as well as the state of California, said John Joyce, Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service Tampa Field Office.

"I am proud to partner with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri's Office in arresting those charged with a money laundering and counterfeiting scheme to steal from our retailers throughout Florida," added attorney General Pam Bondi.

Sheriff Gualtieri said the investigation continues.

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