Making Money

By Andrew H. Young

Note: This essay first appeared in the March, 1998 Bulletin of the Contra Costa County Historical Society

The year was 1924. Alexander Pezutto lived in the town of Valona, which is now part of Crockett. He was in the moving picture business.

He had a friend by the name of Tony Nobilino and one day they had a chat. Nobilino told about his smart brother-in-law, who was moving to the area from Italy. This individual, whose name was Totas, had a machine which could make U.S. gold coin money.

Domenick Totas arrived a few days later. He was carrying a valise. A few days later this was opened. Inside was a "machine," a part of which had lights. There were also bottles. It was explained that they gave the proper coloring to paper money.

Alexander was asked to put a gold coin in the machine. He didn't have one, nor did he have a $20 bill, so Tony put one in the press. Next morning there was a second $20 bill inside. It was larger than it should be, so was trimmed with a pair of scissors. It was then taken to the bank and exchanged for four "fives." Pezutto was offered $7 as his third of the profit, but didn't accept it.

The conversation now turned to a new process which would result in a lot more profit. It did, however, require a minimum of $5,000, otherwise it wouldn't work. Pezutto then went to the bank and borrowed as much as he could there. He found a friend who also lent him money. He added $60 which he happened to have in his pocket. The total was $5,060. The three men then prepared a package of bills which were inter-laced with white paper for the new money. A napkin was sewed around the outside, then boards were placed on the top and bottom. Some rope held all in place.

Pezutto was then instructed to take the package to the home of his friend Tony, and to put it under the wine press. He did so. He was then told it would take two or three days before the money would be ready, meanwhile, Totas and Nobelino would be out of town.

Pezutto worried for a few hours, then went to the wine press and retrieved the package. It contained only one $20 bill plus the pieces of white paper.

Predictably, the "brother-in-law" never showed up, but Tony Nobilino was still around. He was arrested on a charge of grand larceny and held for trial in the superior court.


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