Sidney man gets seven-year sentence in counterfeiting activities

SIDNEY – The Sidney man found guilty of coordinating and carrying out numerous counterfeiting activities was sentenced to seven years in prison in Shelby County Common Pleas Court Tuesday.

Robert L. Barga, 41, 615 Sixth Ave., was ordered confined with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on three different criminal cases by Judge James Stevenson. The judge said it was Barga’s previous and continued criminal behavior that factored into his decision.

In one case, Barga was found guilty following a four-day July jury trial. The charges included 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.

In two plea-bargained cases, Barga received 11 months in prison in each case. The time is to be served concurrently with the seven-year sentence. In one case, he was charged with complicity to forgery. In a second, charges of forgery and tampering with an odometer were ruled upon.

However, Barga’s local legal entanglement has not been fully resolved. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 17 regarding a separate case involving a charge of complicity to burglary for an alleged crime that occurred after the jury trial.

Defended by Sidney attorneys Justin Griffis and Aaron Lowe, the plea for leniency went out to Stevenson. They noted items submitted for consideration, including letters from Barga’s children. Barga apologized for his actions and asked the judge to consider his family.

Assistant Prosecutor William Zimmerman Jr., sat in for prosecutor Tim Sell, who was involved in a juvenile court case. Zimmerman said Barga has six previous felony convictions centering on dishonesty. He noted Barga’s drug abuse when the defendant failed a drug test with five illegal substances being found during the presentence investigation following the jury trial.

Zimmerman asked for the maximum sentence of 12 years.

Judge Stevenson notes impact on criminal activity

Stevenson said he had read over the submitted material and noted his past record dating back to his youth. The judge said Barga had been to prison before and continued to re-offend involving “a great number of people” being drawn into his criminal activities.

In noting the personal letters, “When a person commits a crime it not only impacts themselves, but impacts others around him.”

Barga’s activities have included numerous people who have faced the legal ramifications of their behavior.

His wife, Christina Barga, sat crying in the courtroom during the sentencing. She will be sentenced on Sept. 18 after pleading guilty to a plea-bargained charge of possessing criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony, due to her involvement in her husband’s activities.

Just a half hour before Barga was sentenced, his cousin, Kevin Smith, 42, 615 Michigan St., plead guilty to amended charges involving his and Barga’s counterfeiting activities.

Represented by Ryan Reed of Urbana, Smith plead guilty to a single charge of possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, and tampering with evidence.

Stevenson ordered a presentence investigation while explaining to Smith he faced a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

On July 20, Sherry Smith, 30, the wife of Kevin Smith, was found guilty of possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony, in a plea bargain agreement. Prosecutors dropped a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, also due to counterfeiting activities.

She will be sentenced on Sept. 25.

Counterfeiting activities in Sidney

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 in Barga’s attempt to defraud and possessed counterfeit banknotes on or about Dec. 6 and Dec. 15, 2016. The possessing criminal tools charge stemmed from Barga 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 United States Secret Service at Barga’s residence on Dec. 15, 2016.

Prosecutors claimed Barga headed up efforts regarding fake $10 and $20 bills being created and distributed through various means. They said he and others would sell the bills at a 2 for 1 rate. The bills were used to make small purchases at local bars, retailers, gas stations and fast food restaurants, receiving goods, real money in the change, or both. The money was also used to buy drugs in Dayton.

Kevin Smith’s activity in printing and distributing counterfeit money, possessing a printer for such use, and for destroying a printer that was used in the offenses, led to the original charges.

He was involved with the activities at his home from May 1 through Dec. 15, 2016.

Kevin Smith had been a key witness in the four-day jury trial for Barga in July.

On July 12, during the trial, Smith testified he spent the counterfeit money stating it was prompted by his unemployment. He admitted spending approximately $1,000 on fast food restaurants, pizza delivery, alcohol, clothing, and household items. He was also found to have purchased $150 in scratch-off lottery tickets.

That day, Kevin Smith admitted possessing and destroying a computer used in the manufacturing of the bills on Dec. 16 following an argument with his wife. Earlier in his testimony, Kevin Smith said Robert Barga told him police were investigating and to get rid of everything. When police searched Smith’s home, they did not take the printer in question which was destroyed the next day.

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By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News