Ringleader in counterfeit cash case gets 2 years in prison

4 others to be sentenced for using fake $100 bills

A Madison man was sentenced this week to two years in prison for using counterfeit cash last year, officials said.

U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil said 22-year-old Cornelius Stewart was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge William Conley for passing counterfeit U.S. currency at numerous businesses in southern Wisconsin.

During January and February 2016, Stewart, along with four other co-defendants, traveled in groups to various cities from Baraboo to Janesville, passing counterfeit $100 bills at restaurants and merchants, according to a news release. The group made small-dollar purchases, paid with the fake $100 bills and received change in legitimate currency.

The group was apprehended on Feb. 23, 2016, by Janesville police officers during one such shopping spree when police responded to merchant reports of the suspicious bills.

Conley noted that a prison term was especially warranted for Stewart because of his leadership role within the group, his previous state-level convictions for possessing and passing counterfeit currency and his role in manufacturing the counterfeit bills.

Vaudreuil’s office said Stewart was also ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to the victimized merchants.

Stewart’s co-defendants have all pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case. Danesha Phillips, 23; Dominique Gaunichaux, 19; Marlo Phillips, 19; and Parish Barbary-Wheatherby, 21; all of Madison will be sentenced later this year.

Danesha Phillips and Marlo Phillips will be sentenced on March 21, Gaunichaux on April 6, and Barbary-Wheatherby on April 28.

Vaudreuil’s office said Danesha Phillips and Marlo Phillips are sister and brother.