PITTSBURGH (AP) - A North Carolina man who called himself "Bullionaire" pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to mailing $5,200 in counterfeit $100 bills to Los Angeles after he received them from an alleged counterfeiter in Uganda.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A North Carolina man who called himself "Bullionaire" pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to mailing $5,200 in counterfeit $100 bills to Los Angeles after he received them from an alleged counterfeiter in Uganda.
Robert Dent, 30, of Raeford, North Carolina, is being prosecuted in Pittsburgh because that's where some of the other bogus bills were passed.
Dent acknowledged working as a "re-shipper" of bogus bills printed in Uganda by 28-year-old Ryan Gustafson, authorities said. Gustafson, the son of Christian missionaries to Africa, is jailed on charges he used computers to print at least $1.4 million worth of high-quality counterfeit $20, $50 and $100 bills when he lived in Uganda.
Although Gustafson allegedly passed or distributed most of the phony money in Africa, federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh contend he shipped about $400,000 worth to the United States.
Dent must return to Pittsburgh for sentencing May 13 under federal guidelines that suggest he receive 3 1/2 years in prison.
"It was stupid," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said after the guilty plea hearing. "It was a mistake to get involved in this thing."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul Desai told the judge that Dent and others met through Community X, an encrypted website Gustafson created. Eventually, that site morphed into Community X HQ — a site used by Gustafson's "inner circle," including Dent — and a separate "recruitment site" where Gustafson, Dent and others tried to enlist more people to pass the bogus currency, Desai said.
Dent, who called himself "Bullionaire" in Gustafson's cyberworld, shipped some of the bogus $100 bills from Fayetteville, North Carolina, in May 2014. Desai didn't specify the payment Dent received for doing so, but he has said "re-shippers" like Dent got a percentage of the money Gustafson made.
Re-shippers would mail the bills to other re-shippers — which was supposed to make their origin harder to trace — or directly to a customer who had wired Gustafson funds in the digital currency bitcoin to pay for the bogus bills, authorities said.
The scheme began to unravel when a Pittsburgh man who passed about $20,000 worth of the bogus bills was linked to a $100 bill he spent at a coffee shop. That man then identified Gustafson as the source of his cash, leading to charges against Gustafson and at least four other underlings, prosecutors said.
Gustafson has pleaded not guilty. Desai contends Gustafson remains a risk to flee to Uganda, where he has a young daughter with a woman Desai said is the granddaughter of the late brutal dictator Idi Amin.
Taban Amin, the dictator's son, last month denied that Gustafson's wife is his daughter in Ugandan press reports. Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh are standing behind their claim.