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30 suspects arrested in counterfeiting operation

Authorities announced Monday the takedown of a major counterfeit currency and credit card ring in San Diego County, in which $1 bills were reprinted as $100 bills and then passed at retail establishments.

“These counterfeiters ripped off local businesses from Ocean Beach to Oceanside,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “By working with our law enforcement partners, we have pulled the plug on one of the most organized counterfeiting operations we have seen lately in San Diego County.”

Between October and last month, special agents from the U.S. Secret Service, District Attorney investigators and San Diego police detectives identified the organized group of more than 30 counterfeiters “washing” authentic $1 bills and reprinting them as $100 bills.

Many of the participants in the ring were known white supremacists in Ocean Beach and El Cajon, according to authorities.

Operators in the ring also used stolen credit cards from residential and car burglaries to book high-end hotel rooms from southern Orange County to San Diego’s Gaslamp District using online booking companies, according to authorities.

Once they checked in, counterfeit money labs were constructed inside the rooms while the operators ran up thousands of dollars of charges on the stolen credit cards, prosecutors alleged.

The counterfeit currency was used at major San Diego retail establishments that were identified by the ring as having no policy on accepting counterfeit currency, authorities said.

The name given to the investigation - “Operation Blue Ray” - came from the early stages of the operation when only Blue Ray DVD players were being bought with the counterfeit money.

According to authorities, the counterfeit bills passed as San Diego County establishment exceeded $100,000 and projected losses to the credit card industry and local retailers are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At least 30 defendants face charges, including identity theft, grand theft and burglary, in connection with “Operation Blue Ray.”