GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Sparta man operated a counterfeit ring that targeted Coinstar, Meijer and Spartan Nash, according to Michigan State Police.
Brandon Angel, 32, is in the Kent County jail on a $50,000 bond as he awaits trial on a charge of conducting a criminal enterprise.
If convicted, Angel could face up to twenty years in prison.
“MSP… detectives were notified of a large-scale counterfeiting ring,” wrote a detective with the Michigan State Police Fraud Investigation Section in an affidavit filed in 63rd District Court. “MSP detectives found that Coinstar (vouchers), bottle (return) slips, digital (coupon) barcodes, money, financial institution checks and IDs were being counterfeited. Three suspects told detectives that Brandon Angel was producing/distributing these items and employing individuals to present the counterfeit items.”
The affidavit went on to report that state police had executed a search warrant at Angel’s Sparta home on May 5, 2022.
“Detectives found substantial evidence Angel was manufacturing counterfeit items from his home,” the detective wrote.
Court records allege the fraud occurred from June 7, 2021, to May 5, 2022.
State Police say the case came to light in 2021 when law enforcement on the east side of the state pulled Angel over on a traffic stop and found drugs and counterfeit items in his vehicle.
MSP arrested Angel in the counterfeiting case in August 2022, but he was released from jail pending trial and failed to appear at subsequent court hearings, according to court records.
Angel was re-arrested following a traffic stop on Oct. 20, 2023, state police told News 8.
“Brandon Angel is innocent until proven guilty,” wrote Angel’s attorney, Evan Hebert, of Hebert, P.C., in a statement to News 8. “I am working closely with Brandon and his family to fight these charges and we look forward to the opportunity to put forth the truth publicly in court.”
Two co-defendants have already been convicted in the counterfeiting case.
Court records show Leslie Fritz, 42 of Sparta, pleaded guilty to conducting a criminal enterprise.
She’s currently incarcerated in a Michigan prison, where she’s serving one and a half to twenty years.
Thomas VanGessel, 35, was sentenced to five months in jail after pleading guilty to attempting to conduct a criminal enterprise.
Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker said his office is filing more criminal enterprise charges than ever because they carry increased penalties, thus allowing the system to hold criminals more accountable.
“We have seen a rise in the string of financial crimes,” said Becker in an interview with News 8. “It’s not just one time, it’s a bunch of times, and it’s usually multiple people, and that’s what we’re seeing more of over the last few years than we have in the past.”