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2 Filipinos jailed for using fake money to buy food and get haircut lose appeals

12 March 2022


The Court of Appeal decided to speed up the hearing amid long court adjournments

Two Filipinos who were jailed after using three fake $500 bills to make small purchases and pocket the change in genuine money, had their conviction and sentences affirmed by the Court of Appeal in a decision issued on March 10.

The court said the two cases had to be decided together to avoid holding the two appellants beyond their prison terms

Rhea Nerisa C. Maristela appealed against her conviction and sentence of two years' imprisonment, while Calveen Castrillo Lacuarin who was with her when the offences were committed, appealed only against his sentence of two years and three months.

Maristela managed to apear before Andrew Macrae, vice president of the Court of Appeal, while Lacuarin could not be present reportedly "because of public health concerns at the prison" where he was detained.

Justice Macrae said that with the courts declaring “a General Adjourned Period (GAP), the length and extent of which is uncertain,” the case may get entangled in “in circumstances where there is likely to be a long backlog of cases.”

All hearings that are not urgent in nature have been adjourned until next month because of the rapid surge in coronavirus cases in the city.


Macrae said he had to issue his decision for both of them for three reasons:

1. Both did not present valid written grounds to question their conviction and sentences.

2. Maristela was expected to be released on March 15 (or in five days) at the earliest, so it is unfair for her if Lacuarin’s case is postponed and decided after that date.

3. Lacuarin’s own sentence will end in May, but because of other offences he has committed, the date of his release is now uncertain. If he will renew his appeal, the case may be resolved after the GAP.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Maristela and Lacuarin were jailed for two years for each of the three charges of passing counterfeit bills, to run concurrently, by District Court Judge Amanda Jane Woodcock on Oct. 29, 2021. Lacuarin, being a Form 8 recognizance holder or asylum seeker, was meted an additional three months in jail.

The two first used a fake $500 bill to buy two cups of ice cream from a McDonald’s restaurant in North Point at 4:43pm on June 20, 2020, and received change of $489.50. That evening, the restaurant manager found the fake note in the cash register and called the police.

Two hours later, the two went to a hair salon also in North Point, where Maristela had a hair cut. Paying for the service and a hair oil product with another fake $500 bill, she received $312 in change. The owner found the fake note when checking the accounts for the day, and called the police.

The pair then went to another MacDonald’s, where they bought food, and paid with another fake $500 note, where Maristela got a change of $413.

They were arrested on July 16, 2020 and, in separate video recordings, admitted passing the three fake bills – part of the $2,000 they started with -- but denied knowing they were fake. 

They also told two different stories.

Maristela said that Lacuarin got the money when he sold his shoes for $2,000. Lacuarin, on the other hand, said Maristela sold her mother’s shoes for $2,000 and that he never touched the fake money.

Press for details

“The judge found the applicants had given different accounts in their VRIs (video recorded interviews) but rejected what they had each said in their interviews as incredible, unreliable and fictional,” Macrae said.

“She found that they had both targeted McDonald’s restaurants because they were places where the cashiers were likely to be busy.  By tendering a large banknote for a relatively small item, they could receive a large amount of clean money as change,” he added.


CCTV footage also showed Lacuarin handing Maristela something that looked like a banknote in the hair salon and at the second MacDonald’s.  

“While this action may not be enough to prove guilt by itself, it was coupled with the fact that the 1st applicant (Maristela) then immediately tendered a counterfeit banknote,” Macrae added.

In addition to the counterfeit case, Lacuarin was also convicted in 2015 for breach of condition of stay and for theft in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

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