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IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE FAKE BENJAMINS

A pair is accused of creating a wealth of faux bills and passing them off at stores.

They used glitter pens, eight printers and creamy resume paper to concoct a sophisticated counterfeiting scheme that spanned from a Clearwater Beach apartment to a North Carolina hotel room, police said.

Michael Scott Miller, 28, and Nicolas Secor, 20, are accused of producing nearly $200,000 in fake $100 bills and were arrested last month after an investigation involving several agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service.

Miller was the first one to appear on Clearwater police Detective Rob Lazzaro's radar in June.

Lazzaro began receiving reports from several stores - Family Dollar, CVS and Walgreens - about a man who bought prepaid debit cards and left before employees realized the money was fake.

In Largo, detectives were investigating two similar cases and passed along to Lazzaro the license plate number of a car seen leaving one of the stores.

It was registered to Miller, whose recent mug shot at the Hillsborough County jail matched the man in the surveillance videos. But Miller had already posted bail.

An anonymous tip in July about drugs and counterfeit money being stashed at a tiny Clearwater Beach apartment off Mandalay Avenue led detectives to Miller again.

His roommate, Secor, allowed police inside, where they found stacks of uncut $100 bills sitting neatly atop printers.

The total amount: $90,000.

"They would print the colored background on each side of the bills and then they would do specific parts of the bill, like the face or the security imprints," Lazzaro said. "Each bill had to be sent through several printers."

Miller and Secor also drew the golden stamp found on the bottom right-hand corner of $100 bills with glitter pens. Once the bills were cut, they purchased prepaid debit cards or bought high-priced merchandise and later returned it for cash.

"Case after case starts coming through," Lazzaro said, "and it gets almost overwhelming."

Secor admitted to helping Miller and buying a Visa gift card with the phony cash at a Walgreens on Cleveland Street, an arrest affidavit shows.

He was booked into the Pinellas County jail on charges of counterfeiting and forgery. The next day, Miller paid his $4,000 bail and the two fled the state, Lazzaro said.

The pair resurfaced in Greensboro, N.C., last month when police received another tip.

Inside their hotel room, police found the same setup Lazzaro discovered in Clearwater, including another $90,000.

They were arrested on charges including counterfeiting, synthetic drug possession and forgery.

Secor, originally from California, does not have a criminal record in Florida, records show. Miller, who listed a Winter Haven address in a recent arrest, has been convicted of forgery and drug charges.

They remained in a North Carolina jail Wednesday.

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird and Times staff writer Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report.

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