All James Watkins needed was a bit more practice.

He and Russ Jay Welch Jr., of Osage were arrested recently by the U.S. Secret Service for counterfeiting and passing counterfeit cash, according to the criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

During the investigation, Watkins told Newcastle police detective Brandon Vaughn he was getting better at his craft, according to an affidavit by a Secret Service agent.

"Watkins said he was perfecting his design and thought the CFT FRNs (counterfeit reserve notes) looked good," according to federal court records. "Watkins told Detective Vaughn that he almost got caught in Missouri, but they never got him because he didn't pass any CFT FRNs."

But his bogus Benjamins apparently weren't good enough.

On April 5, the manager of the Maverick convenience store in Newcastle contacted the police department about two men who attempted to buy snacks with a counterfeit $100 bill.

She told Vaughn she recognized the C-note as counterfeit and confronted one of the men -- Welch -- and said they drove away in a black convertible.

A day later, Vaughn responded to another store in Newcastle where someone passed a counterfeit $10 bill, but the store employee couldn't provide any information about who passed it.

Vaughn reviewed video taken at the Maverick store, recognized Welch, saw him pass the counterfeit $100 to the store manger, and saw other bogus bills in his hand.

On April 11, Newcastle Police executed a search warrant at Welch's residence in Osage, which is about 16 miles northeast of Newcastle.

Welch, Watkins and two women were at the residence.

So were a copier/scanner/printer, a counterfeit $50 bill in a bedroom, and a counterfeit $20 bill in on some clothes in a clothes dryer. Outside, officers searched a camper and found another copier/scanner/printer plus counterfeit bills in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. Some of the bills had identical serial numbers.

The officers also seized paper, ink and ink cartridges.

On April 19, the Newcastle Police Department turned the case over to the Secret Service, which is division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

If convicted, Watkins and Welch each face up to 80 years of imprisonment.

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