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June 18, 2014

BCSO helps nab counterfeit suspects

MILLEDGEVILLE — Two men allegedly connected to a large scale counterfeit money operation were nabbed this week through a joint federal and local effort.

The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office and the Secret Service's Organized Fraud Task Force worked to make the arrests.

Craig Johnson, 48, and Shannon Smith, 49, were charged with conspiracy to fraud the United States government.

According to Lt. Bobby Langford, the men are allegedly responsible for $56 million in counterfeit currency used in the United States over a 10-year span.

Langford, who pulls double duty working alongside Secret Service agents in Atlanta, has been part of the Organized Fraud Task Force for about five years.

He received the assignment from the federal government after Smith was apprehended at his home in Atlanta.

"After [Shannon] Smith was arrested, we discovered that he was a big fish in the counterfeit money operation and that he was known to be with another individual in the metro Atlanta area," Langford said.

Federal warrants for conspiracy to fraud the U.S. government were issued for Johnson, and the search for his whereabouts began.

From Atlanta, Langford relayed information to the local sheriff's office, which assisted in the search.

"I have to give credit to dispatchers at the 911 center and our administrative assistant in the detective's division, Deanna Lingold, for running tags and tracking down information for me while I was on the go," he said.

Johnson was apprehended by Langford and a Secret Service agent at a Lithia Springs residence around 6:30 p.m. last Friday.

He was arrested without incident and taken to the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center.  

Sheriff Bill Massee said the work that Langford does with the Organized Fraud Task Force has helped build a strong relationship between the sheriff's office and the federal agency.

"We've helped them on several large scale fraud investigations and they help us with resources not readily available for us to help us solve local cases."

Langford's work in both Atlanta and in Baldwin County helps open law enforcement's eyes to the magnitude of fraudulent practices committed by criminals.

"I have been amazed at how many fraudulent money scams and identity theft cases are being operated not just in Middle Georgia but right here in our backyard," he said.

Thus far this year, the sheriff's office has handled cases of fraud and identity theft involving local victims totaling more than $300,000 in monetary losses.

Massee has also been amazed by the network of people involved in local fraudulent cases.

"It's usually not just one person," he said. "It's an organization of people. We've had some cases, especially with fraudulent checks, in which it will start in Baldwin County and stretch out to five or six surrounding counties. We've been pleased with the results and we plan to continue to work together in years to come."

 

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