A Lodi-based California National Guard member was sentenced Monday to more than a year in prison for passing counterfeit money in Iraq.
Joseph DeAnda, 46, will spend one-and-a-half years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. It is "unlikely" that he will be allowed to remain in the Guard, a military spokesman said Monday.
DeAnda, whose last name is sometimes spelled as "De Anda," pleaded guilty April 27 to passing counterfeit money. He and four other people, including his wife, were initially investigated by Lodi police, and the case was ultimately transferred to federal court.
DeAnda admitted that, between July 2007 and May 2008, his wife sent him fake $100 bills, three of which he used at military stores in Baghdad. His wife, Tami Kishi DeAnda, 41, is still fighting her case and will return to court next month.
They were among five Lodi residents indicted Feb. 5 by a federal grand jury. Clinton Earl Irons, 32, is still fighting his case, while Holly Armada Haworth, 29, and Shelie Louise Radotic, 30, have pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in October.
The investigation, however, had been underway for some time.
In July 2008, Lodi police were called to Lowe's, where surveillance video had captured a man who employees said passed a fake $100 bill. Police recognized the man as Clinton Irons, which helped them get a search warrant for a Scottsdale Road home.
At the home, police said they found fake bills, along with computers that held counterfeiting software. Detective Nick Sareeram began tracking the bills, turning up more of them in casinos and several stores.
The money started adding up, and local police contacted the Secret Service as the trail expanded beyond state lines.
Ultimately, it led them to Baghdad.
Since 2005, law enforcement officers have recovered at least $275,000 in fake $100 bills connected to the ring, prosecutors wrote earlier this month in a sentencing memo.
The bills were originally $5, but a degreaser had been used to wash ink off the bills, which were then run through a laser printer and emerged as $100 bills. Unless someone held a bill up to the light and saw a security stripe reading, "USA FIVE," they looked and felt real.
Much of the counterfeiting happened at a home where Haworth was staying in the 2100 block of Yosemite Drive, according to a plea agreement DeAnda signed April 27.
In asking for a 21-month prison sentence, prosecutors noted that DeAnda had passed fake bills at his local military Post Exchange ("P/X" in military lingo), which is subsidized by taxpayers so soldiers can buy familiar items they can't find overseas.
DeAnda could have faced years in prison, but he struck a deal and agreed to cooperate with the government.
"(DeAnda) has accepted responsibility for his actions and informed the probation officer of his desire to build a more productive life for himself away from drugs and the other corrupting influences that have caused him to engage in the charged behavior in this case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Reardon wrote in an Aug. 12 sentencing brief.
Prosecutors opposed a sentence consisting solely of probation, in part because DeAnda was far from those influences while he was overseas, but he had continued to be involved in the counterfeit scheme.
DeAnda is scheduled to begin his 18-month prison sentence Sept. 29.
As of Monday, he was still with the Guard with the rank of Private First Class, said Lt. Col. Jon Siepmann.
"Although it's possible for a soldier to be retained (after a conviction), it's unlikely, given an 18-month sentence," Siepmann said.
DeAnda first entered the military in 1983 and served for six years. He later entered the California National Guard in 1995, but Siepmann did not know if DeAnda had been with the Guard the entire time.
DeAnda's Auburn attorney, Dan Koukol, did not return a message Monday.
When DeAnda returned from Iraq, he held the rank of specialist. He was demoted in February, around the same time he was indicted. As of July 2, DeAnda had performed well in the Guard and was recognized as top performing cannon crew in the Battalion, Capt. Valos Owen said in a written statement at the time.
Soldiers do occasionally become incarcerated for minor offenses and are allowed to remain in the Guard, Siepmann said. Each one is handled on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with military lawyers and the base commander, he said.