A federal judge has punished participants in an Argentina-based operation passing counterfeit $100 U.S. Federal Reserve notes last year at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim.
Though Department of Justice officials wanted six-month prison terms for Leonardo Ramundo and Juan Vitali, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna recently let both foreign nationals go free with a sentence of time served in the Santa Ana Jail, or about three months.
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According to a U.S. Secret Service report, the non-English speaking Ramundo and Vitali are dirt poor, low level players who were flown first to Florida, kept in cheap motels and ordered to pass tens of thousands of dollars in fake currency manufactured in Peru.
The men purchased inexpensive Disney merchandize to receive legitimate cash back before wiring 90 percent of the windfall to their Argentina bosses, one of whom reportedly goes by the moniker "El Negro."
In reward, the men were allowed to keep $5 each time they worked as a lookout or $10 each time they personally passed the bogus money.
Alerted by a park vendor who received the counterfeit in October, Disneyland's security officers notified Anaheim Police Department detectives and the Secret Service. Surveillance footage showed the scam had occurred on numerous prior occasions when the conspirators dumped between $5,000 and $15,000 in fraudulent funds a day. A raid on two Econo Lodge rooms in Anaheim recovered a suitcase loaded with more than $30,000 in fake $100 bills.