ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Two Jacksonville women are facing multiple charges of fraud in connection to a counterfeit cash operation that targeted various stores in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Mychele Brown, 21, and Jazmyne Cushion, 20, were arrested Sunday evening.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by News4Jax, the two women admitted using counterfeit cash at a St. Augustine Walmart, CVS and an O’Reilly Auto Parts store. The women also told investigators that they used counterfeit cash at various locations in Jacksonville.
Investigators said the duo was caught at the Walmart on U.S. Highway 1 South after one of the women tried to pass a counterfeit $50 bill. The arresting deputy noted in his report that he recognized one of the women from surveillance video at a CVS store, where she had attempted to pass a counterfeit $50 bill. According to the deputy, she also matched the description of a woman who attempted to pass a counterfeit $50 bill at an O’Reilly Auto Parts store.
When the deputy searched Brown’s purse, he found a counterfeit $100 bill and a counterfeit $50 bill, he said.
The arrest affidavit said a Walmart loss prevention employee spotted Brown trying to pass counterfeit cash at the register so he walked over to her and created a verbal distraction until law enforcement officers arrived to investigate. When she got nervous and tried to leave, the employee grabbed her cash, investigators said.
According to investigators, Brown had $644 in real cash, along with $250 in counterfeit money. The arresting deputy said Brown paid Walmart for the items listed on her receipt with a counterfeit $50 bill.
After both women were read their rights, and they were willing to tell the deputy about the counterfeiting operation.
Cushion first told the deputy that she and Brown were with a man whose name was redacted from the affidavit. According to Cushion, she recently began to work with the man instead of sitting at home. She told the deputy their sole purpose was to obtain items to return later using the counterfeit money they were caught with. Cushion also told investigators they had been operating in Jacksonville all day Sunday and started moving south into St. Augustine. Also, according to Cushion, the man whose name was redacted from the report runs the operation, using five to six people at a time, and takes 50 percent of everything they make. Although Cushion admitted to targeting stores in Jacksonville, she was not willing to tell investigators the exact locations, according to the arrest affidavit.
When the deputy spoke to Brown, she told him the same narrative but said they actually hit up four stores in St. Augustine, including Walmart, CVS, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and PetSmart. She said her role in the operation was the lookout person and driver.
According to the deputy, both women were willing to confess everything because they were upset about being left behind by the man they were working with.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said everyone, including store owners and customers, need to be concerned about counterfeit cash, especially since the holiday shopping season officially begins Friday.
"Currently, there is an estimated $150 million worth of counterfeit cash circulating (in) the United States right now," he said.
Smith said all stores, no matter how big or small, should have counterfeit detection devices in plain view at the cash register.
"Once counterfeiters see that, then they're likely not to go there," Smith said.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the case.