Secret Service agents arrested a Tempe Home Depot employee for passing nearly $400,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency, the federal law enforcement agency said Friday.

The suspect, identified as Adrian Jean Pineda, was once a vault associate at the store near I-10 and Baseline. His job was to count deposits from registers at the store, and then transfer the cash to a bank.

Pineda, who was arrested on Jan. 31, is accused of taking cash from the store’s deposits and replacing it with counterfeit bills during his shifts.

Acts caught on surveillance camera

According to court documents, Home Depot officials contacted the Secret Service in late December of 2021, claiming that Pineda passed counterfeit money.

Officials with the Secret Service said the store recorded $387,500 in losses from January 2018 to January of 2022, and that Pineda was caught on video slipping in funny money at least 16 times.

“He was taking out the real money and replacing it with counterfeit, so if you had a thousand dollars of counterfeit that he brought in to work that day, he would take ten 100 dollar bills out of the stack for the bank deposit,” said Frank Boudreaux Jr., Special Agent In Charge with the U.S. Secret Service’s Phoenix Field Office. “There was a lot of coordination, and it was strategic in proving that this was knowingly and willingly committed.”

Genuine, fake bills compared

Boudreaux showed the different between a real $100 bill and a fake one. The fake one he showed was not linked to the case.

“Every single genuine note has a unique serial number,” said Boudreaux.

Boudreaux also mentioned other ways to identify real money.

“We know about the watermarks. We learn about the raised printing. We learn about the red and blue security thread, so if a $100 bill or another bill does not have those features, it’s counterfeit,” said Boudreaux.

On the counterfeit notes special agents seized from Wells Fargo Bank that was used by Pineda’s store, they say the serial number read “play money.”

Investigators then learned about prop money for purchase on Amazon, where a pack of a hundred individual $100 bills cost $9.

Suspect admitted to crime, officials say

During Pineda’s arrest, Secret Service agents seized $5,000 in counterfeit currency and recovered $5,300 in genuine currency. An additional $22,000 in genuine currency was found at Pineda’s home. Investigators say he admitted to the crime.

“He was in a position of trust, and in a position where he could do the crime, and so if we hadn’t intervened, I don’t know what the dollar amount [in losses] would be,” said Boudreaux.

Pineda, who has been released without bail, is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 7.

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