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Counterfeit Franklins failed to fund illegal tryst

Augustine arrested after prostitute reports deceptive payment

Photo Provided This counterfeit money was seized after the man suspected of paying for services — including a prostitute — with phony bills was arrested.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A suspected counterfeiter was arrested last week after a prostitute took exception to being paid with phony money.

Now the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department is asking residents to report any suspicious currency they receive.

According to Sheriff David Lucas, his office received a complaint Thursday that a female prostitute was paid with counterfeit money and then assaulted after objecting to the payment being made with fake bills.

“It was at a local motel,” Lucas said, “trying to pay someone (for) one criminal activity with another criminal activity.”

Lucas said the interaction apparently was arranged via social media. He said the alleged victim later contacted the motel, which contacted Lucas’ office.

Augustine

“It was done on social media and called in to us, but the person didn’t come in in-person and didn’t give their name,” Lucas said.

“The female called the motel and said that she was sexually assaulted. … The guy solicited her for sexual services through social media, met at the motel room, then he paid her in (alleged counterfeit money). … The motel reported to us.”

On Friday, the sheriff’s office received a complaint that a person had sold an item online and had been paid with counterfeit money.

“He was a victim of a scheme (to) exchange $200 in fake U.S. currency for a Apple watch,” Lucas said, noting investigators soon suspected a link in the two cases.

“That money was compared with this other money, and it matched up.”

Lucas said deputies working the cases ascertained the same type of bills were used in both incidents.

They set up a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of Cody Lee Augustine, 30, of Muncy, Pennsylvania, after he reportedly attempted to purchase an iPhone with counterfeit money. Lucas said deputies traced Augustine to a local hotel and obtained a search warrant for his room, where they reportedly found counterfeit money and a syringe full of heroin and fentanyl.

Augustine was charged with two counts of felony criminal simulation, a misdemeanor of the first degree and a felony of the fourth degree; possession of drugs, a felony of the fifth degree; solicitation of a prostitute, a misdemeanor of the first degree; and theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree. He has since bonded out of jail.

Lucas added that paying for an item with counterfeit money is considered theft. He said his department doesn’t see counterfeiting cases often.

“It’s out there,” he said. “These were $100 bills … that he tied to pay. … They’re very noticeable of being counterfeit.”

Lucas said the allegations of assault cannot be pursued unless the alleged victim comes forward to make a report.

The investigation was led by Sgts Thomas Devaul and Jordan Bluming.

Lucas asks that anyone who has had financial exchanges with Augustine inspect the currency and call the sheriff’s office at 740-695-7933.

“We want to get (word) out to the people of Belmont County,” he said.

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