SIDNEY — The jury seated in the trial of Robert L. Barga, of Sidney, found him guilty, Friday, on all five felony charges stemming from his involvement in local counterfeiting activities.
The four-day trial in Shelby County Common Pleas Court saw several witnesses disputing testimony that had been given by others in a flood of accusatory finger-pointing.
Judge James Stevenson ruled that Barga remain free by continuing the current $10,000 appearance bond he had posted. A presentence investigation was ordered. No sentencing date is scheduled.
Following some two hours of deliberation, Barga, 41, 615 Sixth Ave., was found guilty on one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; four counts of forgery; and one count of possession of criminal tools, all fifth-degree felonies.
Based on court records, the charge of corrupt activity stated Barga was involved in producing and distributing counterfeit money between May 1 through Dec. 15, 2016. The forgery counts resulted from Barga’s attempt to defraud and possession of counterfeit banknotes on or about Dec. 6 and Dec. 15, 2016. The possessing criminal tools charge stemmed from Barga’s having a printer/scanner which was used to produce counterfeit paper money.
Barga was arrested after a search warrant was executed by Sidney Police and the U.S. Secret Service at Barga’s residence, Dec. 15, 2016.
Prosecutors claimed Barga headed up efforts to create and distribute fake $10 and $20 bills. They said he and others would sell the bills at a two-for-one rate. The bills were used to make small purchases at local bars, retailers, gas stations and fast food restaurants. Passers received goods, real money as change, or both. The money was also used to buy drugs in Dayton.
Following the verdict, Prosecutor Tim Sell said the jury saying was “very attentive” and “paid closed attention” to all the facts. He deferred additional comments until after the sentencing.
Defense attorney Justin Griffis, of Sidney, offered no comment on his and Barga’s behalf after the verdict.
During the closing arguments, Sell said Barga was a “one-man gang,” counterfeiting and instructing others on counterfeiting. He said Barga tried to display himself to the jury as a reformed offender, crime fighter, church-goer and a martyr: a good citizen.
The prosecutor reviewed the physical evidence. He highlighted information on a cell phone confiscated by police during Barga’s Dec. 15 arrest. He provided the jury with several pages of printed text messages that Barga claimed he did not send.
Referring to the text messages, Sell said to the jury, “These are the words of a counterfeiter. I encourage you to see it for yourself.”
Griffis said most of the state’s witnesses testified “when they felt the state (prosecutors) breathing down their neck” to gain favor in their own pending cases. They face charges related to the counterfeiting crimes in Shelby County.
The defense attorney continued by saying investigations conducted by Sidney Police were haphazard. He cited the lack of vital evidence that was not confiscated, bypassing available fingerprint-detection options and not providing security camera footage of the alleged crimes.
In a separate case, Barga is charged with one count of complicity to forgery, a fifth-degree felony. He is accused of soliciting others to print counterfeit money. A jury trial is set for Aug. 29.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.