A blacksmith was sentenced to five years in prison – with half of the sentence suspended – by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for passing fake US dollars at a shop earlier this year.
According to judge Kim Rathnarin, defendant Sam Sitha, 38, had been arrested on March 28 and charged with putting counterfeit currency into circulation.
Sen Sok district penal police officer Ly Sopheak said that on the day in question, Sitha visited a shop in Phnom Penh Thmey commune to buy drinks and phone credit worth $20. He then paid with a $50 bill of “spirit money” – the often-realistic imitation currency burned at religious ceremonies – prompting the shopkeeper to call the cops.
Police later arrested Sitha and confiscated some $15,000 in fake cash.
In court, Sitha maintained it was curiosity that led him to use the bills.
“I was told that these bills were counterfeit money for praying to spirits, but they looked like real money,” he said. “The reason why I decided to pay with them is because I wanted to know if they were real or fake.”