Chinatown Merchant Guilty of Counterfeiting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Is it real or is it fake? A Chinatown merchant passed what turned out to not be the real McCoy, as in false Benjamins.

    Forget it, shoppers: it's fake money. And he's guilty.

    An elderly Chinatown merchant was convicted of passing $36,000 worth of fake US currency to customers at his Stockton Street jewelry shop on Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Appeal online newspaper.

    Peter Cheng, 81, doled out the funny money to two customers in May 2007, who gave Cheng valuable antique gold coins in return, according to the newspaper. Cheng was found guilty of 10 felony counts, from passing fictious bills, to grand theft, to second-degree burglary.

    In his defense, Cheng was unaware the money was fake, according to his attorney. "If bank tellers couldn't tell these were fake bills, if bank detection machines and long-time Chinatown merchants couldn't tell, how do you expect (him) to tell?" asked attorney Robert Amparan.

    Agents from the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case. Cheng, who is free on $300,000 bail -- real money -- will be sentenced on Oct. 6.