A man who first put Lodi police on the trail of a counterfeiting scheme that stretched to Iraq and involved more than $277,000 pleaded guilty Monday.
Clinton Earl Irons, 33, was the last of five defendants fighting the case, which started with his arrest almost two years ago. He pleaded guilty in federal court to attempted passing of counterfeit money and possession of counterfeit currency.
The scheme ultimately sent a long-time local California National Guard member to prison. Along the way, law enforcement agencies have found fake $100 bills across California, in neighboring states, in Mexico and on a military base in Iraq.
The counterfeit scheme began unraveling July 2, 2008, when a man tried to pass a fake $100 bill at Lowe's in Lodi, according to Lodi police and federal prosecutors. Store video surveillance captured the transaction, and police recognized the customer as Irons, whom they had been looking for on unrelated warrants.
That gave police enough evidence to get a search warrant for a Scottsdale Road home, where investigators found fake bills and computers with software used to make money.
Police caught up to Irons two weeks later, and they found a fake bill in his wallet, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. In his wallet they also found a piece of wax paper that Irons rubbed on crisp bills to make them appear worn, prosecutors said in a news release.
Irons himself made at least $30,000 worth of fake money by using a degreasing chemical to "wash" ink off real $5 bills, the press release said. Then Irons printed $100 bill markings on the paper, even though they still had an embedded $5 bill strip and watermark of Abraham Lincoln.
Lodi police detectives began tracing the money, then called the Secret Service when they learned that the counterfeiting had gone outside local and state lines.
Irons and three women were later indicted, as was one woman's husband, Joseph DeAnda.
He had served multiple terms in the California National Guard since 1983, and was serving in Iraq when his wife sent him fake $100 bills. Between July 2007 and May 2008 he used three of them at military stores in Baghdad.
DeAnda, now 47, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August 2009 to 18 months in prison. He is at a federal prison in northwestern Oregon and is scheduled to be released in January 2011, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
His wife, Tami Kishi DeAnda, pleaded guilty Nov. 9, 2009, and will be sentenced March 22.
Holly Haworth, 30, pleaded guilty in June 2009, and is serving a one-year sentence in a Dublin prison.
Shelie Louise Radotic also pleaded guilty in June, and was sentenced in October to 100 hours of community service and three years of probation, according to court records.
Irons is scheduled to be sentenced May 3 and could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence will be determined through federal guidelines that consider multiple factors, such as prior history and admitting responsibility.