Pennsylvania, New Jersey Casinos Get 16K in Counterfeit Currency, Three Arrests Made

Posted on: December 20, 2020, 12:26h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2020, 01:57h.

Several Pennsylvania gaming properties and one in Atlantic City wound up getting fake bills last year, leading to the recent arrest of three suspects, with another person still on the loose.

Currency was allegedly altered in a Philadelphia hotel
Pennsylvania’s Wind Creek Bethlehem pictured above. It was the scene of the alleged passing of counterfeit bills in 2019. (Image: Wind Creek)

In total, $16,000 worth of 150 fake bills were passed at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem — now called Wind Creek Bethlehem — as well as Parx Casino, Valley Forge Casino Resort, Harrah’s casinos, and SugarHouse Casino — now Rivers Casino Philadelphia, reported Lehigh Valley, a local online news site.

The three apprehended suspects were identified as: Mahagany White, age 33, Nieem Johnson, age 37, and Marcus Davis, age 44. Police are looking for Kiara Kristin Purnell, age 31. Each is from Philadelphia.

Davis was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail. White was being held on 10 percent of $100,000 bail.

Johnson was being held in lieu of 10 percent of $65,000 bail in a Philadelphia jail on an unrelated drug case, the report said.

On the counterfeit cases, following an investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Gaming Enforcement, each suspect faces charges of forgery, theft by deception, possessing instruments of crime, and conspiracy. Their cases will be heard in Bucks County Court.

Currency Allegedly Altered in Philadelphia Hotel

Three of the suspects were shown on casino surveillance cameras allegedly using the altered money at gaming tables, sometimes while playing blackjack, the report said. Also, the inquiry revealed a printing operation in a Philadelphia hotel room.

Police claim the printing scheme made $1 bills look like $100 bills. They were bleached and then altered through a printing process. But each of the bills had the same serial number.

Beyond the incidents at the Pennsylvania casinos, White, Johnson, and Purnell played during April 2019 at the Hard Rock Atlantic City, police said. They were captured on casino surveillance video there, the report said.

About a year ago, Purnell told police if she used counterfeit currency, it was only by accident.

Prior Pennsylvania Casino Crimes

Earlier this month, in an unrelated incident, Harrah’s Philadelphia, located in Chester, Penn., was the scene of a man approaching the cashier’s cage. An employee was counting a stack of cash.

Police say the suspect asked to use the phone, and while the cashier turned for a brief moment, the man allegedly grabbed the cash, approximately $24,000.

Also, in September, a father and son duo pleaded guilty to charges involving illegal wagering on state lottery numbers and sporting events. The two reputedly led an organized gambling ring for decades in western Pennsylvania.

Robert “Bobby I” Iannelli, 90, of Pittsburgh, admitted to corrupt organizations and operating illegal lottery charges. His son, Rodney “Rusty” Iannelli, 60, of Wexford, pleaded guilty to illegal lotteries, bookmaking, and conspiracy to engage in illegal lotteries/bookmaking.

Under the plea agreement, the father and son will jointly pay $75,000 and forfeit an additional $225,000 in illegal gambling proceeds, prosecutors said. Both were sentenced by Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio to at least 10 years. But they were given probation. So, as of now, they will not spend any time in prison.