A 63-year-old woman with a police record dating back to the 1970s, two of her children and a grandson were in custody Thursday on suspicion
of making and trying to pass counterfeit money throughout Orange County, police said.
The arrests followed an employee at a Mobil gas station at Pacific Coast Highway and Broadway in Laguna Beach calling police at about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday to say two males tried to buy something with a counterfeit $10 bill, Laguna Beach police Lt. Jason Kravetz said.
“The clerk looked at it and it didn’t look right so he confronted them with it and they ran out the door,” Kravetz said.
The clerk got the car’s license plate number and a description of it, Kravetz said.
A Laguna Beach patrol officer pulled the car over at Pacific Coast Highway and West Street a short time later, Kravetz said.
Tania Santoya had a “big bulge in her pants,” and after she was patted down police recovered about $5,000 in counterfeit five-, 10- and 20-dollar bills, Kravetz said.
Rose Mojica, 63, Santoya, 33, Roberto Jose Rodriguez, 33, and a 16-year-old boy, all Santa Ana residents, were booked into the Laguna Beach jail on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of fraudulent items and counterfeiting, Kravetz said.
The adults were expected to be transferred to an Orange County jail tonight, with the teenager going to Juvenile Hall, he added.
Mojica is the mother of Tania Santoya and Roberto Rodriguez and the 16- year-old’s grandmother, Kravetz said.
The group’s practice was to have the 16-year-old go to mom-and-pop shops and pass small denominations of the fake currency to tamp down suspicion, Kravetz said.
“It was pretty real looking,” Kravetz said. “They made it with a high-quality printer and they printed it on a newspaper-type paper that made it look old.”
Investigators seized a computer, printer, paper and more counterfeit money at the home of the suspects, Kravetz said.
Secret Service officials told Laguna Beach investigators that there has been a recent rash of counterfeit money being passed throughout Orange County and Long Beach, Kravetz said.
Mojica and Santoya were both wanted on arrest warrants for felony burglary, Kravetz said.
Mojica and Rodriguez appear to be in the country illegally, Kravetz said.