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Family ran fake money ring in Hillcrest video store: DA

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Yakub Yusupov, 44, and his sons Eduard, 23, and Pinchas, 19, all Uzbeki immigrants, allegedly passed the phony money in the form of $100 bills from their store at 87-79 Parsons Blvd., authorities said.They were arrested at their 167th Street home after flying into Kennedy Airport from Israel, where they used to live and still maintain ties, according to police.Richard Staropoli, assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service's New York City office, said the three were part of a much broader counterfeiting network that stretches worldwide, since the bills are thought to have been made overseas."It's a high-quality manufacturing operation," Staropoli said, adding that the investigation is far from over."Money doesn't grow on trees or anywhere legally outside of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "It's essential to crush any tampering with so fundamental an underpinning of the nation's economy."The investigation began in November 2003 when detectives were tipped off about the scheme by information stemming from a separate DVD and CD counterfeiting operation, law enforcement officials said. Authorities refused to comment on details of that operation. Four Elmhurst men, however, were arrested and charged with DVD and CD counterfeiting after police raided their underground bootleg factory March 17. Staropoli said the Secret Service began collaborating with city police after learning that detectives were staking out the same video store that federal agents were already investigating in connection with the illegal money ring.The defendants were arrested after allegedly selling large amounts of phony cash to undercover detectives and informants, authorities said.Police said about $7 million of the counterfeit cash has been recovered since 1999 with some $2.5 million still in circulation.Staropoli, who could not confirm how much was still floating around, said investigators could tell the bills were fake by discrepancies in the micro-printing and because "the paper was a little thick."The three defendants have prior arrests on charges of statutory rape and possession of a forged instrument, police said.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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