A Pomona man whom police describe as one of the most sophisticated forgers in Southern California pleaded no contest last week to three counts of writing bad checks. He faces a prison term of up to 4 1/3 years.
Curt N. Hughlett, 31, who was arrested Dec. 12 by Claremont police, is suspected of dozens of other forgeries, police say. They also allege that he is associated with a crime ring responsible for passing hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony checks.
Claremont police officers say that when they searched his van at the time of his arrest, they seized a photocopier, typewriter, reams of blank check paper, cameras, a blue backdrop similar to that used in California driver's license photos and bags of discarded receipts taken from trash dumpsters outside banks.
Police suspect that armed with such equipment, Hughlett was able to place his picture on numerous forged licenses and manufacture his own checks by photocopying bits of discarded documents onto authentic check paper.
"You wouldn't even know that you're looking at a phony ID or check," said Claremont Detective George Dynes. "He makes his own right from scratch."
Police arrested Hughlett after he tried to cash two fake checks totaling $1,920 at a Security Pacific National Bank branch in Claremont. The bank vice president alerted police after noticing that the checks, apparently issued by Security Pacific, carried the name of a manufacturer who does not print checks for the bank, Dynes said.
Claremont detectives later learned that Hughlett had passed a bogus check for $761.21 at a Security Pacific branch in Glendora. Further investigation found that Los Angeles police had believed he was linked to a major San Fernando Valley forgery ring that was busted several years ago.
"We knew he was around, but we just weren't able to catch this guy," said Los Angeles Detective Richard Mulligan, who works forgery in the Van Nuys division.
In Pomona Municipal Court on Thursday, Hughlett pleaded no contest, which is tantamount to a guilty plea, to three counts of forgery, as well as possession of methamphetamine and LSD.
Deputy Dist. Atty. James E. Green said that Hughlett would have faced a maximum prison sentence of five years, eight months. However, in exchange for the plea, Green agreed to recommend a term of no greater than four years, four months, when Hughlett is sentenced Jan. 28 in Pomona Superior Court.