General Crime

* Peter Cheng Was Sentenced to Three Years and Four Months in Jail for Passing Thousands of Dollars in Counterfeit Bills to Customers in San Francisco

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An elderly merchant from San Francisco’s Chinatown was sentenced Tuesday to three years and four months in jail for passing thousands of dollars in counterfeit bills to customers who were trading him gold coins in 2007. Peter Cheng, 82, was convicted on Aug. 30 of four counts of passing fictitious bills or notes, four counts of grand theft via false pretenses and two counts of second-degree burglary. He was also found not guilty of one count of attempting to pass the fictitious bills.

Cheng was sentenced in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday and was remanded into custody, district attorney’s office spokesman Omid Talai said today. Judge John Schwartz denied a defense motion for a new trial and ordered a restitution hearing to be held on Jan. 30.

Prosecutors said during the last two weeks of May 2007, Cheng passed out about $36,000 in fake U.S. currency in four transactions to two victims in the jewelry store he ran at 1010 Stockton St. In exchange, the victims gave him valuable gold coins. Robert Amparan, Cheng’s defense attorney, said following the conviction in August that he believed the jury wrongfully convicted his client, who he said was unaware of the fake cash.

Amparan said the bills passed through various bank security measures before being discovered. “If bank tellers couldn’t tell these were fake bills, if bank detection machines and longtime Chinatown merchants couldn’t tell, how do you expect (him) to tell?” The U.S. Secret Service was the investigating agency in the case, prosecutors said.

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