ST. ALBANS — Two men appeared in court Monday after being arrested by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for the use and possession of $16,000 in counterfeit money.
Matthew J. Dillon, 30, of Hudson Falls, N.Y., and Francis H. Hamblin, 30, listed as homeless, were arraigned Monday on felony counts of possession of counterfeit money. Both men, with public defender Rory Malone representing them, pleaded not guilty.
According to the police affidavit, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, Oct. 19, received a complaint from an individual who sold a Yamaha four-wheeler to two men at the Jolley Store in Enosburgh. The two men found out about the four-wheeler for sale on the Internet classified site, Craigslist.
The complainant said the $3,500 paid to him in $100 and $50 bills did not have the same texture as regular currency. He checked with the store’s counterfeit money test, which showed the bills were fakes.
Upon arrival, sheriff’s deputy spoke with the complainant, who described the blue Dodge Dakota with New York registration and a trailer the two men were using. A be-on-the-lookout bulleting was issued to area police agencies for the vehicle. Another sheriff’s deputy described seeing a similar vehicle traveling on Route 105.
The responding deputy checked the cash used in the transaction, and in the affidavit, described the bills as being counterfeit, based on previous experience with fake money.
While the deputy checked surveillance camera footage at the Enosburgh Jolley Store, a Border Patrol agent located the vehicle on Gore Road in Highgate and detained Dillon and Hamblin. Upon arrival, the sheriff’s deputy arrested Dillon and Hamblin on charges of possession of counterfeit currency and larceny.
According to the affidavit, neither Dillon nor Hamblin made comments to the deputy regarding the transaction, but they say they were traveling from Enosburgh.
Both men were searched upon their arrest. Hamblin was in possession of a marijuana pipe and $2,000 worth of counterfeit bills, said police. Dillon’s wallet was searched and its contents were inventoried for evidence.
According to the affidavit, the deputy noticed a real $50 bill that contained the same serial number as one of the fake bills used in the four-wheeler transaction.
The Dodge Dakota was seized by the sheriff’s office and a search warrant was obtained and executed.
Sheriff Robert W. Norris said about $16,000 worth of what he believes are counterfeit $100 and $50 bills were recovered, along with a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
In court Monday, Dillon and Hamblin were arraigned separately, appearing before Judge Barry Peterson. Peterson found probable cause in both instances, and ordered each man be held on $40,000 bail, citing their risk of flight because neither had a connection to local communities.
Malone took issue with the finding of probable cause in relation to Dillon. He cited the police affidavit as describing Hamblin as being in possession of the counterfeit bills and conducting the transaction with the four-wheeler’s owner.
After a brief recess where he researched similar cases, Peterson maintained the court had probable cause in relation to Dillon. Peterson said Dillon was driving the car and clearly involved in the transaction.
Peterson noted that both men had past felony offenses. According to the affidavit, Hamblin had a warrant for his arrest for unknown charges in North Carolina. That warrant is not extraditable, meaning the State of North Carolina won’t be seeking to have Hamblin transported for a case he is involved in there.
According to the affidavit, both men claimed to be members of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.
Noticeable in court Monday was a U.S. Secret Service agent. Because the case involved counterfeit money, a federal offense, the Secret Service became an interested party.
Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney Heather Brochu said Hamblin’s case could eventually be turned over to a federal court, due to the nature of the alleged crime.
Norris said the effort to quickly apprehend the two men was due to good communications between law enforcement agencies and community involvement.
Norris urged people to use extra caution when dealing in online sales with unknown individuals. He suggested going through some form of background check, which could include asking people for basic information.
“It’s nice to know who you’re dealing with,” Norris said.
Norris said when making larger purchases, such as buying a home or a car, references are often required. Online sales, he said, should be no different. He urged contacting local law enforcement agencies with questions about potential transaction partners.