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NORTH ATTLEBORO (AP) – Four New York City residents are charged in Massachusetts in a scheme in which they bought thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics with counterfeit $100 bills, then returned the items for cash, police say.

The suspects all pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Thursday in Attleboro District Court a day after their arrests in nearby North Attleboro.

The four were arrested after returning more than $5,000 worth of iPads, digital cameras and other merchandise to a Target store that had allegedly been bought earlier in the day from a Target in Westborough, Detective Michael Elliott said.

The scheme may have cheated Target and other retailers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania out of $50,000 in the past two months, he said.

Police were tipped off by suspicious employees at Target, who also alerted the U.S. Secret Service, the agency that investigates counterfeiting. The Secret Service assisted in the arrest, Elliott said, and have been investigating.

The man accused of being the ringleader was held without bail at his arraignment on a fugitive from justice charge out of Iowa. He was held on $20,000 bail on the Massachusetts charges, which include larceny, receiving stolen property, conspiracy and possession of counterfeit money.

His alleged co-conspirators face the same charges in Massachusetts.

Suspect was in possession of one fake $100 bill, but police recovered thousands of dollars’ worth of phony bills in Westborough.

“They were good quality,” he said. “If you put them side by side with a real one, you could hardly tell the difference. They just had a little bit of a different feel to them.”

The suspects  allegedly tried to eat Target sales receipts after their arrest, police said. One suspect  told investigators she knew the money was fake, but was taking part in the scheme for the first time. Her lawyer told The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro that she is from Rhode Island and had accepted a ride from  another suspect to the area to visit family. North Attleboro is on the Rhode Island border.

Lawyers denied their clients were involved in the scheme. One was in the area to buy a car with the $4,000 in real money police found on him, his lawyer said.

 

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