Video: Vegas Undercover

By Chris Hansen Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 6/16/2009 2:12:37 AM ET 2009-06-16T06:12:37
Transcript

This video aired on Monday, June 15 at 10 p.m. ET.

It's midnight on the bustling Las Vegas strip and the high life is in full swing. But in a dark corner of town, something else is going down. This man is stealing a car.

What he doesn't know—is that the police are watching. And so are we.

On the other side of Las Vegas, these people are talking business. They're selling stolen merchandise. This woman has cars.

Brittany (hidden camera footage): ...sportscar, the truck.

So does he...

Adam: I can get brand new Mustangs all day long.

This guy has guns.

Chris Woods: A government special.

This man is selling counterfeit money...

Bryan Rusty King: I got two thousand on me.

....he's even holding a class on how to make the fake bills.

Undercover Officer: What does that do...?

Bryan Rusty King: Just cleaning that cr*p off of it.

They all think they're dealing with other crooks. 

Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC: Between the two of these guys, ... they're capable of a crime spree. 

But they're really selling to officers...

Undercover Officer: How bout 500 bucks for everything?

Back on the strip—this man and woman are talking about sex...

Suspect: I mean, a pretty girl like yourself can get as much money as she's looking for.

He thinks she's a prostitute. And he seems to be offering his services as a pimp.

Undercover officer: ...somebody to give me guidance?

Male: To give you guidance, to give you guidance.

He doesn't know that she's really a detective—and that we're watching from only a few feet away.

He is very confident, he's not even looking around...

On Dateline Monday, you'll go behind the scenes like never before with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, undercover as it happens to solve crimes. And you'll hear what suspected criminals have to say for themselves.

More than 30 million tourists will visit Las Vegas this year. And while they eat, drink and play, another side of Vegas is hard at work: criminals scamming, stealing cars and selling sex. That's where the officers come in.

Over the past year we've been watching undercover operations of the Las Vegas Police Department....one of the most proactive in the country.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie: You have to be creative in your approach to law enforcement. The criminal element is, so you have to be, as well.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie is the man in charge.

Sheriff Gillespie: If you continue to go after them the same way that you always have, well, you're gonna get the—the same results.

One of the biggest problems? Car theft. Video: Vegas Undercover: Looking for a date with a… cop?

Sheriff Gillespie: Auto theft's a prime example. We were goin' after auto theft from traditional ways. And then—we brought in some—non-traditional ways. 

Enter members of a special auto theft unit called the Viper Squad. Lt. Bobby Duval, who runs the unit, has a warning for car thieves.

Lt. Duvall: Las Vegas is not the place to come and steal cars. It really isn't. 

His detectives use bait cars that are strategically placed to present an opportunity for potential thieves...all rigged with hidden cameras.

Lt. Duvall: I mean, we've got a state of the art bait car program. We have one of the largest fleets in the United States and we have guys that know how to work ‘em.

Tonight, the bait car is a 2006 Escalade.

The officers fake a fight between a man and a woman.

Where'd they get the idea?

Lt. Duvall: It is based on actual cases where people have gotten their car stolen.

In the commotion, they pretend to abandon the bait car, still running.

This man spots the car, gets in, and looks around. But he doesn't take the bait - and leaves. Moments later, this SUV pulls up across the street. This man gets in and begins to drive away. And within minutes, he pulls over. That's when police move in.

They arrest two men. The driver and his accomplice, a man named Frankie, who I get a chance to talk to.

Chris Hansen: Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC.

Frankie: That’s where I rememeber you from...To Catch a Predator.

Chris Hansen: Yeah, you watch To Catch a Predator?

Frankie: Yeah, yeah, I watched that. Yeah.

Chris Hansen: Yeah, you did? Yeah? You like it?

Frankie: I like that you guys catch 'em 'cause it's crazy people are nowadays.

Chris Hansen: Well, guess what we're catching now?

Frankie: Car theft.

Chris Hansen: Auto thieves.

Frankie: Auto thieves. There you go.

Chris Hansen: So tell me what happened tonight.

Frankie: There was people fighting over there. There was a white guy and a white lady fighting and then the white lady got out of the car and took off with the white guy in another truck. So me and my friend went down there to see what was going on and then we just took the truck.

Chris Hansen: So was it just an impulse thing, spur of the moment?

Frankie: Pretty much, yeah.

Chris Hansen: Right. You're in a bit of a jam right now, though.

Frankie: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Chris Hansen: Now how old are you?

Frankie: 19.

Chris Hansen: 19.

Chris Hansen: Have you ever been busted before?

Frankie: I've never done nothing wrong before.

Chris Hansen: Never taken any cars, gone to jail.

Frankie: Nope. Clean record.

Chris Hansen: Been to court?

Frankie: Been to court once.

Chris Hansen: For what?

Frankie: For driving without a permit, that's about it.

Chris Nansen: What's your biggest regret tonight?

Frankie: Getting in the truck and going over there. That's the biggest regret that I have right now. 

Chris Hansen: So you're facing serious charges here tonight.

Frankie: Yeah.

Chris Hansen: At 19 years old.

Frankie: Uhuh. It was just one bad judgment call. That's all it really was.

Frankie has not yet entered a plea.

Detective Duvall hopes his arrest serves as a warning to others.

Lt. Duvall: First of all, hopefully, people will get the message that you don't steal cars in Las Vegas. Second message is that if you do, there's a good chance that you're gonna run into one of ours.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Most of the time, there are real victims. This woman had her car stolen at gunpoint.

Chris Hansen: Did he point the gun at you?

Monique Chouquer: Yes. Well, the whole time it was pointed it at me.

Would the thief who did it ever be found?

Undercover Officer: Dude, what's up?

That leads us to another undercover operation going on in Vegas. 

We're watching that one too, and once again...the bad guys don’t know it.

Behind every car that's stolen, there is an all-too-real victim.

911 call:

Monique: Somebody just stole my car.

Monique: I was actually at work. I was working late. And I was in the office by myself.

23-year-old Monique was about to leave her office when a man approached her and asked to use the phone.

Monique: I was in the middle of asking him, "Oh, you need to use the phone?" whenever I looked up and saw the gun.

911 call:

Monique: He said give me your keys.

911 Operator: Are you okay?

Monique: Yes.

The man wanted her Cadillac, parked outside.

Monique: It was just unreal. You see this on TV and you never think it's gonna happen.

911 Operator: You want medical or anything?

Monique: No.

911 Operator: It's pretty scary, I know.

But the Las Vegas police know it happens all too often—

And they know when thieves steal cars or other items, it's more than likely they'll be looking for a place to sell the goods.

Lt. Dave Logue: Our shop is coming up on the right hand side.

So, the Las Vegas intelligence unit—run by Lt. Dave Logue—has rented this little shop. 

Chris Hanson: It's a fencing operation—

Undercover Officer: —it's a fencing operation—

Chris Hanson: —basically. Yeah.

Undercover Officer: Where you can bring—stolen, high-end—electronics, guns, vehicles—no questions asked.  And you'll get paid cash for it over the table.

Undercover detectives will pose as crooks who buy hot items. The shop is tucked away in an industrial area off the Vegas strip—and masquerades as a place that installs car audio systems. Everything in the storefront is a prop with a purpose.

Chris Hansen: Even things like this—the eight ball, the Rubik's cube. Why do you have these out here on the—on the countertop?

Undercover Officer: Everything in this office is pretty much wiped down after every deal— in order to gather information from fingerprints, if need be.           

Police have rigged the shop with hidden cameras, and we've been allowed to install some of our own.

Chris Hansen: There's a camera hidden here....There's one right up here. There’s another camera hidden right here.

Chris Hanson: How dangerous is it for you to do an investigation like this?

Undercover Officer: For the Undercover officers that are dealing directly at this counter—it's very dangerous.  Because—

Chris Hanson: I mean, you don't know who's gonna pull out a gun.

Undercover Officer: Absolutely.

While the undercover officers are out front, they are under constant surveillance from this back room.

Chris Hansen: So when one of the deals is going down, there are undercover officers right here, hands on their guns ready to pop out here in case something goes bad.

The word is out on the street that the owners of the so-called audio shop actually buy stolen goods....

Now it's time for the customers.

Undercover Officer #2: Come on in, sweetie.

Meet Cheryl Miller, also known as 'Chevy'—a 40-year-old mother of three. Today, she's selling a 2002 Ford Mustang.

Undercover Officer (on hidden camera): Is it in good shape?

Cheryl Miller, a.k.a. Chevy: Oh yeah, it's awesome.

She says a friend of hers reported the car stolen in order to collect the insurance.

Cheryl Miller: They um, turned it in for insurance or whatever...

Undercover Officer: They just wanted it to disappear.

Cheryl Miller: Yeah, exactly.

Another day, Chevy is back, and says she and some of her friends have guns.

Cheryl Miller: A uh, 12 gauge and a—and a 380...it's—they're rifles. 

Undercover Officer: They're all rifles? 308?

Cheryl Miller: Yeah, 308.

But she says her forte is forgery...making fake checks.

Cheryl Miller: I do big checks. Big money checks.

Undercover Officer: Okay.

Cheryl Miller: I've been doin' what I do for about 12 years.

Chevy's now a regular and begins to bring her friends to the shop.

The undercover officers are doing a bang up business...characters of all kinds come by

Undercover Officer: What's up bro?

This man has some large guns....

Undercover Officer: What we got? What we got?  This thing looks a little bit like a stiff body. 

(laugh)

Chris Woods: ... fires 357 shells.  And—30—338 special

Undercover Officer: Oh that's a 357?

Here comes Brittany...an unlikely looking suspect...

Undercover Officer: Where you from?

Brittany: Alaska...

Undercover officer: Alaska! Anchorage?

Brittany: Uhum.

Today she's come with a 2006 Dodge pickup truck. She says it was taken from a man she knows.

(laugh)

Brittany: Basically, I just robbed him. I just robbed his house or whatever.

She also says she's got guns: lots of them.

Brittany:  I have like six duffel bags full of them.

The officers working this operation are a tight-knit group of specially trained undercover detectives.

Chris Hansen: When you do one of these deals, it is not just another day at the office, is it?

Undercover Officer: It's never just another day at the office.

We've hidden their faces to protect their identities.

Chris Hansen: What do you want folks to know most about this case?

Undercover Officer: There are lots of unconventional ways that we're gonna go after these people. And we're doing everything we can to get em...and trying be creative and get these people off the street and put 'em in prison.

One thing these detectives were surprised about was how many women showed up.

Like Allison Hunt. A 43-year-old single mother. She’s here to sell this stolen Ford Thunderbird.

Undercover officer: Is the A/C broken in that ride, or what?

Allison Hunt: I don't know. I didn't touch anything, other than the padded steering wheel. I just shifted, and that's it.

She says she's selling the car for a friend and doesn’t know if it's been reported stolen yet.

Allison Hunt: I've been driving up and down Boulder Highway at night, in the day, and nothing has happened to me.

Allison also tells the undercover detectives she knows someone who can come up with a fake title for the car.

Allison Hunt:  I have a girlfriend that works down at one of the tow places.

Undercover detective: Uh-huh.

Allison Hunt:  And she does the titles. That's what she does, the titles for the towing. You know, so I was gonna get her to make a title for it cause she said she would.

They settle on a price: $200.

Allison Hunt: Yeah, that's fine. If you just handed me a dollar right now, I woulda taken it. 

Undercover Officer: Kyle? Nice to meet you

This is Kyle Kennedy. He and a friend have come in to sell a stolen SUV. The officers make him feel right at home. Soon he reveals he's just become a father.

Undercover Officer: So, dude, you got a baby, huh?

Kyle Kennedy: Yeah.

Not your average family man.

Kyle Kennedy: I think I would've kicked her to the curb a long time ago if it weren't for the kid, you know?

Soon, they get down to business and settle on a price.

Undercover Officer: All right, well let's just do $550.

$550 dollars for a car worth $25,000. Kyle and his friend leave with the cash.

Like most of the suspects who will visit the store, police let Kyle walk—that's so they don't blow their cover. 

The plan is to arrest all the suspects once the operation has ended.

Kyle comes in for second time.

Two weeks later, Kyle is back with a Cadillac...

And now, he's bragging to the officers about how he stole it using a weapon.

Kyle Kennedy: I more or less took it. Like strong armed with a gun.

And whose car is it.

Monique: And he said, "I'm gonna need your keys."

It’s Monique's—remember, she was the one robbed at gunpoint.  Now that police know Kyle is violent, they can't let him walk.

Lt. Bob Duvall: This person has to be removed from the street as quickly as possible.

But the trick is to not tip him off that the storefront is really a police operation. Lt. Bobby Duvall handles the arrest.

Lt. Duvall: The operation tonight is to safely take him into custody and then get him in jail.

They're not going to tell Kyle he was caught in a sting—they come up with another excuse.

They pull him over and tell him his victim picked him out of a photo lineup. Video: Suspect caught making fake money

So he still has no idea...how he was really caught.

Kyle Kennedy: Can I ask what's going on, or...?

Kyle, who is serving a prison term on other charges, has yet to enter a plea in connection with his alleged storefront crimes.

Chris Hansen: Police ultimately caught this guy?

Monique: Yes.

Chris Hansen: How did that feel?

Monique: It was incredible. Before this I thought that officers didn't really do anything. They just drive around...

Turns out in Vegas, police do a lot...

Man: It's just all about negotiation...

Undercover detectives are everywhere. And it isn't only car thieves they're after.

Lt. Karen Hughes: Her target audience, is gonna be a pimp.

Chris Hansen: A pimp.

Undercover Officer: Hi honey.

This woman looks like a prostitute, and is acting like one.

But she’s really an undercover detective with a specialized squad called the Pimp Investigative Team—PIT for short.

Her story? She's a new arrival in Las Vegas and is trying prostitution for the first time.

Chris Hansen: How do you prepare— mentally for your role?

Undercover Detective: I have a story that I usually stick to. I usually stick to that same story all night long. And I go over that in my mind multiple times.

Her supervisor, Lt. Karen Hughes runs the vice unit.

Lt. Karen Hughes: She's gonna be out there, and her target audience, so to speak, is gonna be a pimp.

Chris Hansen: A pimp.

Lt. Karen Hughes: Somebody that's gonna be out there recruiting for new girls into his stable.

Tonight, we watch as the operation begins off the strip at a known hooker hangout.

Undercover Detective: What—you wanna date or what?

And within minutes, she is propositioned by customers—again and again.

More than a dozen times within 30 minutes. But the real target—the pimps—are nowhere to be seen.

Hansen: I mean she seems to know pretty quickly whether or not she's dealing with a pimp or a john.

So just after midnight they move to a different location...right on the Vegas strip...

Almost immediately, she's approached by this man while we watch from just a few feet away.

Christopher (on hidden camera): I mean, I got a—I know a few services out here where that I can introduce you to.

The undercover police officer was literally on this street less than four minutes before she was approached and as you can see, the conversation is continuing. If she didn’t think he was a pimp she would have walked away by now.

Christopher: It's just all about negotiation...

The suspected pimp suggests one of his favorite ways to advertise her services.

Christopher: I don't know if you ever worked with Craig's List?

Undercover Detective: No.

Christopher: Craig's List is pretty open. It has—you know, you can do pretty much anything on Craig's List. 

He never openly admits he's a pimp. But listen to what he does say.

Christopher: You need somebody that's gonna give you guidance, somebody you rely on, somebody you can call when the chips are down, somebody you can call when the chips are up. You know, somebody that's gonna be there for you and—and keep you motivated, keep you focused. You know what I'm saying? Because it's not easy out here, you know, I mean for anybody, especially in the business 'cause it gets scary sometimes. 

Christopher: You really have to have somebody that's gonna really...

Undercover detective: Somebody to give me guidance?

Christopher: To give you guidance, to give you guidance.

In Las Vegas, encouraging or promoting prostitution is a felony called pandering.

And the officers believe there's no mistaking what he has in mind.

Man:...If you need me to help you, then I'm at your service. Okay, so I mean, you gotta make your next move be your best move. And I mean, if you need me there for you, then you gotta invest in me. You know what I'm saying? What I mean by invest in me—I'm saying, I mean, I can't do things for free.

The undercover police officer pretends she's interested and tells the suspect that she's got an appointment to turn a trick....and will call him when she's done.

Undercover Detective: Can I get your number?

Christopher: You can get my number, but you're gonna have to pay me for it.

Undercover Detective: I have to what?

Christopher: You're gonna have to pay me for it.

Undercover Detective: Can I pay you after I see this guy?... he's gonna call me anytime. 

An hour later, the suspected pimp is back to collect his money.

Christopher: I mean I wanna say—I mean you're fortunate to meet a guy like me 'cause a lot of guys will try to take you.

They walk into a casino.

That's when the undercover officer hands him the cash she says is from the trick she just turned...and police move in.

He agrees to talk to me before he heads off to jail.

Hansen: Hey Christopher, Chris Hansen with Dateline, NBC, how you doing?  Can you tell me what happened tonight?

Christopher: Started hanging out, man.

The suspect insists he never approached her, it was the other way around.

Chris Hansen: Who made the first contact?

Christopher: She made eye contact with me.

Chris Hansen: She made eye contact.

Christopher: I said, "Hey," she said, "Hey."... She's a good lookin' woman, I'm a good lookin' dude. That's what I felt like attracted her to me.

But the real question—was it all about prostitution?

Chris Hansen: Did you tell her that you could be her pimp?

Christopher: I never have... I've never been a pimp in my life. I'm not a pimp.

Chris Hansen: But you see how this looks.

Christopher: I see how it—it looks, but what it looks is not what it really is, you know? I understand that this was a sting operation. I understand that I feel like I've been victimized, I understand that I'm going to jail right now.

Chris Hansen: But you didn't have to take her money, you didn't have to promise her certain things that a pimp would promise—

Christopher: There's a recession. The economy's bad, I can't even find a job nowhere. My intentions wasn't to come out here and do this, my intentions were get a couple drinks and go back home.

Chris Hansen: What woulda happened had she not been—

Christopher: I woulda walked to Seven Eleven, put time on my phone went home, and been watching Dateline NBC tomorrow with somebody else on the news.

Christopher has pleaded not guilty to a charge of pandering.

As you can see, the idea that prostitution is tolerated in Vegas is a myth.

Chris Hansen: There's this image that some people have of prostitution in Las Vegas being this glamorous high class world of call girls.

Lt. Karen Hughes: That's a fallacy. It is violent, it's vile, it's degrading.

This woman says she was caught up in that violent world...a victim she says of a pimp who lured her to Las Vegas for prostitution.

Donna Miranda is in trouble. And she's called the police for help. Her story?

She came to Vegas to meet a man named Stephen Harris... and she claims he tried to intimidate her into working for him as a prostitute.

ChrisHansen: How did it all start?

Donna Miranda: Um you know, girls are young and naive. And they'll pretty much believe anything a sweet guy has to say to them. And that's what I did. And there are plenty of other girls out there just like me.

It started as an online relationship.

Donna Miranda: And everything seemed to be great. He promised me the world. He was gonna take care of me and my kids. 

But she says that all changed. And that's why the PIMP investigative team is gathered here in this parking lot.

She told police what happened while she and her new boyfriend were at dinner one night.

Donna Miranda: There were a couple of gentlemen over there. And—he had said something to me like, "Why don't you go over there and talk to them, see what you can do for us?”

She thought Harris was suggesting she offer herself for sex.

Donna Miranda: And I thought he was kidding. So I kind of laughed it off. 

But when they got back to his house, Donna says Harris let her know he wasn't joking at all.

Donna Miranda: He says, "Well, why didn't you do what I told you to do?  I make the decisions now.  You don't make your own decisions."  He was like, "You were supposed to go over there and talk to those gentlemen like I told you and make us some money."

She says she needed to get out, and fast. 

Donna Miranda: So I was packing my stuff. He came over and put his arms or his right arm around my stomach. I tried to pull away, and he threw me across the room.

Hansen: Threw you across the room?

Donna Miranda: Yeah.

(she cries)

Terrified... she says she fled the house...barefoot.

Donna Miranda: I didn't have any shoes on. I was just wearing...

ChrisHansen: You just bolted.

Donna Miranda: I just ran out the front door.

That's when she called 911.

911 call:

Donna Miranda: Oh, he slapped me and then he poked me in the eye and he, like, beat me up and stuff like that.

Turns out, after Donna called 911, Harris called police as well, claiming he was the victim, that she hit him.

911 call:

Stephen Harris: Well, uh my girlfriend got a little agitated with me...and was like hitting me repeatedly and kickin' and kind of going crazy.

But police didn't believe him. Especially since he's been arrested for pandering before. Now the pimp investigative team wants to bring Harris in. They ask Donna to call him and arrange a meeting.

Donna on phone with Harris: I mean, I know we got off on the wrong foot and that, you know, things went sour, whatever.

She tries to get Harris to make admissions on the phone.

Donna on phone with Harris: You wanted me to be your only and biggest source of income.

In the end, he declines to meet her. So police decide to close in on his house with a swat team.

Officer on megaphone: Stephen Harris. Las Vegas Metro SWAT Team. You need to come outside.

But Harris isn't there, and his neighbor isn’t surprised to see the police.

Chris Hansen: What kind of neighbor was he?

Neighbor: What kind of neighbor was he?

Neighbor: The police were here at least a half a dozen times and a couple times they brought him in and he was crying like a baby.

Detective on phone: Hey, Stephen, how you doing, man?

Detectives come up with another plan...they tell Harris to meet them at a Starbucks..so they can sort out what happened. They tell him they're investigating whether Donna really did start the fight.

Officer on phone: You know I obviously didn’t have a chance to talk to you. I just wanted to talk to you about what happened the other night. She gave me her side of the story.

And Harris takes the bait.

ChrisHansen: It's about five minutes after two. Harris said he'd be here at the Starbucks at 2:00 to meet with the—detective. 

When Harris shows up, the officers move in and arrest him. He agrees to talk to me.

Chris Hansen: I'm Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC.

Stephen Harris: Nice to meet you.

Chris Hansen: I'd shake your hand except you look like...

ChrisHansen: We're doin' a story on pimps—

Stephen Harris: In Las Vegas?

Chrishansen: In Las Vegas, yeah.

Stephen Harris: Lucky for me, huh?

Chris Hansen: Lucky for you...You ever see—you ever see our show To Catch a Predator?

Stephen Harris: Yeah, that's what I'm sayin'.  What—was she 17 or somethin'?

Chris Hansen: No, no, no.

Stephen Harris: Phew. That's good.

Harris says he did nothing wrong...that Donna found him online. Her photos may be what attracted him.

ChrisHansen: What was your plan for Donna?

Stephen Harris: I was gonna make her my lady.

ChrisHansen: Your lady?

Stephen Harris: Yeah, my woman.

Harris insists he's not a pimp, and never asked Donna to approach a group of men when they were out to dinner.

ChrisHansen: What about at the restaurant that time when she says— Video: Armed and dangerous?

Stephen Harris: Was y'all followin' us around at the restaurant that time?  What's goin' on?

ChrisHansen: I'll get to that in a little bit.

Stephen Harris: I ask you like this. If I was a so-called pimp, I would never let someone of my girls go solicit somebody while they're with me. Come on, get real. Why would I do that? That's just dumb. If I was a pimp, I wouldn't do that. 

And remember—he called police to say Donna hit him, not the other way around.

ChrisHansen: So, you're the victim here?

Stephen Harris: Honestly, I am the victim. First, she beats me up. I call domestic violence on her. Now, I'm in goin' to jail for pimping. Yes, honestly I am the victim here.

Before he goes off to jail, Harris offers a word of advice.

Stephen Harris: That's our system. That's what I want folks to know. So, men out there, if you think you wanna call the officers because your spouse beat you up, you might wanna think about that again.

ChrisHansen: Aright. Well, listen. I appreciate you talkin' to me.

Stephen Harris: No problem. I appreciate you guys talking to me.

ChrisHansen: I appreciate that. Alright, you take care.

Stephen Harris: Keep up the good work. I like, I like that show.

Harris has pleaded guilty to pandering. He faces a potential four year sentence.

While the pimp squad takes Harris away—the undercover storefront is still attracting suspects who seem to think they have a license to steal.

But one in particular thinks he has a license to print money....

For the past nine months, inside the undercover fencing operation, police have purchased items you'd expect from thieves: cars and guns. 

Now they encounter something they never imagined...its' certainly something we've never seen.

Meet 39-year-old Bryan “Rusty” King. His merchandise? Counterfeit hundred dollar bills. Fake money, he says, is a profitable business.

Bryan Rusty King (on hidden camera): Dude, I made so much money off this *, it's unbelievable.

In his pocket, $2,000 worth of the fakes.

Undercover Officer: Well, what do you have on you right now?

Bryan Rusty King: Couple of grand... I got $2,000 thousand on me.

He hands the bogus bills to the undercover officers.

Where does he get the counterfeits? He says, from some really scary guys. 

Bryan Rusty King:...they don't f*ck around. They're real serious people. There's no fuckin' jokin' around, laughin', like we are. I mean, they're just real quiet.

The undercover Officers carefully examine the counterfeit bills.

And offer to pay Rusty 25 cents on the dollar.

He takes the $500 in real currency for the $2000 in counterfeits.

How does he keep his bills straight?

Bryan Rusty King: That's why I carry two wallets on me. I got one that—that one's for real money...

Rusty says passing counterfeit money has not been difficult.  

He says he simply spends real money in a store, gets change from the clerk—then quickly finds an excuse to introduce a fake bill.

Bryan Rusty King: And, then, I turn around like I'm gonna walk away and I'm gonna—oh, yeah, can you give me a pack of cigarettes or something? I'll throw it down and—

Undercover officer: Yeah. They don't think—

Bryan Rusty King: —in their mind, they just gave 'em to ya.

Undercover officer: Right.

Bryan Rusty King: So they don't think to sit there and look at it. You know?

Undercover officer: Got ya.

Bryan Rusty King: And I haven't had one problem yet.

He claims some of the money is also passed into circulation by an insider at a casino who, he says, takes his fake bills and gives him real currency. 

Bryan Rusty King: We got one guy in the cashier's case in the casino...we got, like, six different people who walk in and they'll take, like, $500 a piece. And they go to fuckin' cashiers cage, they give him the money. And he takes it.  But the way he inserts it and turns it in—I guess, somehow he's mixing it up. They've been funnelin' the money to this f*ckin' casino for almost a year.

Rusty says the counterfeiters have been trying to refine the process - in an effort to improve the product.

In fact, he says they're holding back some recently printed bills to make sure they're just perfect.

Bryan Rusty King: I mean, we're waiting now, just to see, hold the bill for a couple of days, and see if anything, anything funny happens, like, you know, changes colors or anything weird.

The officers want to know more about how these bills are made.

A lot more—so—a few weeks later, Rusty is back. Now Rusty tells them he's on his own—there aren't any partners. 

And this time, in a garage behind the storefront...for 1,500 dollars...he will give them a demonstration in the fine art of counterfeiting.

We're watching from the back room.

Chris Hansen: Rusty has no idea he's talking to undercover police officers.

First, he takes real five dollar bills—and sets out to remove all of their ink.

Apparently, making counterfeit money isn't as hi-tech as one would imagine.  

He soaks them in a degreaser bought at an automotive store... and heats them up for a minute or so in a microwave oven.....

Undercover officer: What's—what's a good amount of time to leave them in there...? 

Bryan Rusty King: One and a half minutes to leave it in there.

Undercover officer: But, I mean, and then you—

Bryan Rusty King: No longer than—than ten minutes in there at all.

He teaches them how to brush the bills clean.

Chris Hansen: Rusty is showing the undercover officers how to clean the bills, and actually taking the ink right off.

He finishes washing the bill in a bowl of water and sprays it with a household cleaner.

Undercover officer: What does that do...?

Bryan Rusty King: Just cleaning that crap off of it.

This is giving new meaning to the phrase laundering money.

And then he uses a hairdryer to finish the drying process.

When he's done....what used to be a $5 bill is virtually blank, except for the watermark of Abraham Lincoln.

Undercover officer: What is that called?

Bryan Rusty King: That's Abraham.

To make the fake hundred he'll use an inkjet printer.

Undercover officer: So ink jet printer, never a laser printer?

Bryan Rusty King: Right. Ink jet.

He scans a photo of a real hundred dollar bill.

Bryan Rusty King: Yeah, you want to make sure the bill is centered...The machine—the machine is scanning this every time. And that's what it's putting on top of here.

...and prints it on top of the blank paper he just created from that five dollar bill.

Undercover officer:

Dude, I think you just solved our problem. Video: Selling guns to cops?

The job is finished. The result: A counterfeit hundred dollar bill. What's the quality? The police say as counterfeits go—it's fairly good.

Chris Hansen: So if someone were to take the time to hold this up to a light you could actually see Abraham Lincoln and the $5 strip here.

Undercover officer: Correct.

Chris Hansen: But most people don't do that.

Undercover office: Most people just look to see that there's some sort of portrait which is a reflection, and that there's some sort of strip here.

But for his part, Rusty's proud of his work.

Bryan Rusty King: Unless you're an expert in money, how the f*ck would you tell if it was fake or real?

In case you’re thinking of trying this at home, you should know we've left out a number of key steps. And one more thing: counterfeiting is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

When this demonstration is done, the undercover detectives tell Rusty they'll be in touch.

That may be an understatement.

Officer: We got him in custody.

We've been watching as undercover Las Vegas detectives catch suspected car thieves and pimps.

Lieutenant Dave Logue: Safety is the upmost importance to us. We want everyone to come back safe.

Now, after a ten-month investigation, the undercover fencing operation has ended.

Chris Woods: ...it's a government special.

It's time to round up the suspects.

Lt. Dave Logue briefs his officers...

Lt. Logue: Be on a heightened awareness with them please. Don’t let your guard down.

Teams of police will be fanning out across Las Vegas in search of 38 suspects who are accused of selling stolen goods to police. 

Some have left town—but they find many others. There was Christopher Woods....

Who sold guns to undercover officers.   He's brought to police headquarters—

Chris Hansen: Hey, Chris. Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. We're doing a story on a metro investigation.

ChrisWoods: I don't want to talk to you sir.

Chris Hansen: That's you right? Don't you want to see it?

Chris Woods: No.

Chris Hansen: Okay alright. Well thanks for your time.

Christopher has pleaded not guilty.

Here comes Allison Hunt.

She's the single mom who sold a stolen car.

Chris Hansen: Hey Allison? Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. How you doing?

Allison Hunt: Not very good obviously.

Chris Hansen: Can you tell me what happened here?

Allison Hunt: I don't know what they're talking about. I have no idea.

Chris Hansen: Did you ever get involved with selling stolen items?

Allison Hunt: No. I don’t even know what this is about. I don’t go anywhere. I have a kid.

Chris Hansen: You've never even gone to a place to sell a stolen vehicle?

Allison Hunt: No.

Chris Hansen: You sure?

Allison Hunt: Yes.

Hansen: Can I show you something?

Allison Hunt: Uh-huh.

Chris Hansen: Is that you right there?

Allison Hunt: Yea. Hm-mmm.

With her memory refreshed...she admits trying to sell the car. She says a male friend who was staying with her asked her to sell it for him.

Chris Hansen: That's you right there, talking about driving around in a stolen vehicle.

Allison Hunt: I didn't know if it was or not. It was my friends, he said he wanted to sell it, I said I don't know.

She says the only way to get him out of the house was to go along.

Allison Hunt:  And he came over to my house and I couldn’t get rid of him. Couldn’t get rid of him.

Chris Hansen: So you decide to sell a stolen car for him?

Allison Hunt: I didn’t know if it was stolen or not. I didn't think it was. I didn't think anyone would do that to me. I have a kid.

Allison Hunt: I just wanted him out of my life. You don’t understand how bad this person was. He was a weirdo. He was walking around without his shirt on. Acting like he lived there.

Chris Hansen: But that doesn’t make it okay to sell a stolen car.

Allison Hunt: I know that. I didn’t know it was stolen, okay? I didn’t know that.

Chris Hansen: So you're a victim in all this.

Allison Hunt: Yea. Yea.

Chris Hansen: How would you describe the situation you're in right now?

Allison Hunt: Awful. Absolutely awful. I'd rather be dead then to be here right now. But I'd worry about how my kid would be raised and I am so sorry. And if there's anything I could to make up for it, I would be happy to.

Chris Hansen: Well, thanks for talking to us, good luck with everything.

Allison Hunt: Thanks. Thanks.

It turns these two suspects have already been arrested for other crimes.

Allison has pleaded not guilty.

Remember Rusty? 

Bryan Rusty King: The machine is scanning this every time.

He showed police how to print bogus hundred dollar bills. Police picked him days earlier on an outstanding drunk driving warrant. He has no idea anyone knows about his counterfeiting.

We were allowed into the jail to ask him some questions.

Chris Hansen: Hey Rusty, how are you? Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. Have a seat there...

Remember, he thinks he's here on a DUI—but police have allowed us to reveal we know all about his counterfeitng. He agrees to talk to me and at first, denies it.

Chris Hansen: Did you go to a storefront business and try to sell some counterfeit money?

Bryan Rusty King: No, I didn't go to one, No.

Chris Hansen: No.

Bryan Rusty King: I mean, I did go to a storefront business but I didn't try to sell anything to ‘em like counterfeit money, no.

ChrisHansen: And why did you go there?

Bryan Rusty King: Why did I go there?

ChrisHansen: Yeah.

Bryan Rusty King: Because they contacted me wantin' some information from me.

ChrisHansen: And what kind of information did they want?

Bryan Rusty King: About counterfeit money.

ChrisHansen: About counterfeit money?

Bryan Rusty King: Right.

ChrisHansen: So did you tell 'em anything?

Bryan Rusty King: Yes. Video: Woman arrested after trying to sell a stolen car to cops

ChrisHansen: And what did you tell 'em?

Bryan Rusty King: I just showed 'em what somebody had showed me

ChrisHansen: And what was that specifically?

Bryan Rusty King: Like how to do it.

ChrisHansen: How to do it. And do you know how to do counterfeit money?

Bryan Rusty King: No, I mean just from what I've read on the Internet and stuff.

For the first time, he's about to see evidence of his appearance inside the police sting. 

Chris Hansen: I have a videotape that I think you may wanna see. Can I play it for you?

Bryan Rusty King: Sure.

Chris Hansen: That's you right there... Now before this is all over, you produce a crisp $100 bill. And you basically tell 'em how to do it.  And then on top of that, how to pass this $100 bill.

Bryan Rusty King: You know—

ChrisHansen: How it works in casinos. How you can do it in convenience store.

Bryan Rusty King: Right.

ChrisHansen: How many of those $100 bills have you made over the years, Rusty?

Bryan Rusty King: Not many.

ChrisHansen: Not many?

Bryan Rusty King: No.

ChrisHansen: Well, that's not what you said here.

But Rusty now says he was just blowing smoke.

ChrisHansen: How much money in reality do you think you made?

Bryan Rusty King: Not jack shit.

ChrisHansen: Not jack—?

Bryan Rusty King: No. Seriously. 

ChrisHansen: No, give me a ballpark.  How much—

Bryan Rusty King: None. Nothin', probably. I mean I—I haven't passed it—passed any of 'em myself. And never would try because—I mean, honestly, to look at 'em, they don't—they don't really look that real.

But if they didn't look real, why did he say on hidden camera that he carries two wallets to tell the bills apart?

Rustyin front: That's why I carry two wallets on me. I got one that—that one's for real money...

ChrisHansen: Well, then how come you have one wallet for real money and one wallet for counterfeit money?

Bryan Rusty King: That's B.S. also.

ChrisHansen: There's a lot of B.S. floatin' around?

Bryan Rusty King: Yeah.

(laughs)

Bryan Rusty King: Well, that's what—

ChrisHansen: There's a whole lot of B.S. floatin' around here, Rusty.

Bryan Rusty King: There was a lotta B.S. floating around here.

ChrisHansen: So how would you characterize the situation that you're in now?  How would you describe it?

Bryan Rusty King: It's f*ckn disgusting.

Chris Hansen: Well, is there anything else you want folks to know about what happened here?

Bryan Rusty King: No.

ChrisHansen: Thanks for your time.

Bryan Rusty King: All right, thank you.

Rusty is charged with forgery in the third degree and has pleaded not guilty.

Remember Cheryl Miller, nickname 'Chevy'—she came into the storefront to sell stolen cars. 

She was recently locked up for passing bad checks...and like Rusty, doesn't know she was caught in a police sting.

ChrisHansen: Hey Cheryl?

Cheryl Miller: Hi.

ChrisHansen: Chris Hansen. I'm with Dateline NBC.  How are you?

Cheryl Miller: Hi. Fine.

ChrisHansen: Would you like to have a seat?

Cheryl Miller: Not really, but I mean if I have to, yeah.

ChrisHansen: Well, you don't have to do anything... I wanted to ask you a couple questions about an investigation we're doing a story on.

ChrisHansen: Can I show you a videotape that I think you might like to see?

Cheryl Miller: Sure.

It doesn't take long for Cheryl to realize she's in trouble.

ChrisHansen: Did you think it might have been an undercover investigation?

Cheryl Miller: I did.

ChrisHansen: But you—

Cheryl Miller: I did. I did.

ChrisHansen: Did you help sell five vehicles and six—

Cheryl Miller: Yeah, I was there.

ChrisHansen: —guns?

Cheryl Miller: I helped. Yes.

ChrisHansen: Okay. So you're a part of the deals?

Cheryl Miller: Yes.

ChrisHansen: Does that make you just as guilty as the person who—

Cheryl Miller: Absolutely.

ChrisHansen:—stole the car or the gun?

Cheryl Miller: Absolutely.

Chris Hansen: How did you end in such a jam?

Cheryl Miller: Well, when you're beaten from the age of 3 1/2 until 14, you don't stand much of a chance. 

She claims a man she knew beat and sexually molested her.

Cheryl Miller: I got pregnant with his baby when I was 13. You know? Just one of those.

ChrisHansen: And so what he did to do you put you in a tough spot from the get go?

Cheryl Miller: From the age of 14, I was on the streets.

She says she has three children and had been strung out on crystal meth for years.

ChrisHansen: How do you break that cycle of crime? How do you finally get out of it?  I— I'm guessin'—that you don't wanna be here?

Cheryl Miller: You're askin' a 40-year-old woman who's not broke the cycle. Three children. Cared more about what I was doin' and— and the drugs and everything else more than I did my own children.

ChrisHansen: Is it in some ways a relief to be in jail and away from meth and that lifestyle?

Cheryl Miller: Yeah, it is. I'll have somewhere to sleep at night. My kids'll graduate 'cause they're not out with me.

ChrisHansen: And how are they doin'? Video: An arrest of a suspected car thief

Cheryl Miller: Fabulous. Because I didn't raise 'em.

ChrisHansen: Do you talk to 'em at all or—?

Cheryl Miller: Nope. No.

ChrisHansen: How hard is that for you, you know, in these long stretches of sobriety in jail to officer with the fact that you don't have a relationship with your kids?

Cheryl Miller: It tears you up inside. 

Cheryl has pleaded not guilty. 

Stories like hers are not lost on Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

ChrisHansen: Do you ever feel sorry for a person like that?

Sheriff Doug Gillespie: You do. You know, you—you do. It doesn't make what they've done right by any stretch.

He says there are programs designed to help people like Cheryl.

In law enforcement we just don't look at it from the enforcement standpoint. We're lookin' from a prevention and education standpoint, as well. If you do become addicted, here are—services that are available to you. You know, you have programs in place to help—to help them change their way of life...Are there enough of those services?  No. Do we have to continue to—to work in that direction as well?  Yes.

ChrisHansen: When people see this investigation, and the unprecedented access, what do you think the takeaway should be?

Sheriff Gillespie: I think just reinforces—to the public—that we're just not out there driving around—that we are being proactive. We are being creative. And we are doing our level best—to keep this community safe.

And we'll continue to watch — close up — and undercover.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

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