Leader of Portland counterfeit ring gets almost 3 years in prison
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced the leader of a counterfeiting ring that passed thousands of dollars of fake bills at area retailers to two years and nine months in prison.
U.S. District Judge Anna Brown also ordered Somphalavanh Sophanthavong to pay nearly $12,000 in restitution.
Sophanthavong pleaded guilty last September for his role in printing as much as $120,000 in high-quality fake bills. Prosecutors said the 34-year-old was the leader of a group of counterfeiters that used the fake money to buy goods from retailers including Nordstrom, Target and Fred Meyer. They either kept them or returned them to the retailers for cash, prosecutors said.
Sophanthavong, who is an undocumented Laotian citizen and whose parents are U.S. citizens, has lived in Oregon most of his life. A deportation order has been suspended due to social and political instability in Laos, according to court filings by his lawyer.
Sophanthavong told Brown that he was sorry for his actions, which, his lawyer said, stemmed from a drug addiction. Brown urged Sophanthavong to take advantage of drug counseling and other programs while in prison.
"There's no reason to give up," Brown said. "There's every reason to start over."
Seven other defendants in the case have all been sentenced.