The paper is good, the ink is bad: This is how Cottonwood Police Department described the counterfeit $50 and $100 bills a couple recently used to purchase items in Cottonwood and Jerome.
“It appears the counterfeit money is made using $1 and $5 bills and converting them to $100 and $50 bills,” CPD Sgt. Monica Kuhlt said. “This means, if a merchant is using the counterfeit detection pen to determine its authenticity, the pen will indicate it is a legitimate bill. That’s because the paper used is authentic and that is what the pen reacts to.”
Bleaching smaller bills and reprinting artwork from larger bills, a common forgery technique, allows counterfeiters to pass the most common methods to determine authenticity used by merchants — the “feel” and pen tests — but it will not pass a black light test. Viewed through a black light, the bill will show a red band on its surface rather than a pink band for legitimate $100 bills or yellow for $50 bills.
The suspects, a white male and white female, have allegedly passed the bills off several times as currency in Cottonwood and Jerome, according to Kuhlt. A photo released by Jerome Police Department shows a video date stamp of Aug. 6.
According to Camp Verde Marshal’s Office Commander Brian Armstrong, the particular risks of passing counterfeit bills means the suspects may have high-tailed it out of town by now.
“Typically, they won’t hit an area very long,” Armstrong said, adding that the point of using the bills is buy something small, making $80 to $90 purchases.
Merchants, however, quickly get wind of counterfeiters. Once local law enforcement gets involved, ideally with photographs of the suspects, counterfeiters face higher chances of detection.
“Once the public knows, they move on to the next town.”
Armstrong said the presence of counterfeiters has inspired CVMO to partner with the Camp Verde Business Alliance to educate merchants in the area. CVMO has published an informational press release to this end, encouraging distribution throughout the area.
“The first choice is for them to call us and file a report, but that doesn’t always happen,” Armstrong said, adding that on many occasions a merchant does not realize they have accepted counterfeit money until the end of the day. “As long as they’re taking them to the bank, though, the bank automatically reports it according to their procedures.”
According to Armstrong, forgery, including counterfeiting currency, is not typically a crime associated with violence: “The typical way we come across it is usually [via] another victim passing it along.”
Armstrong added that the victim often has no idea they are holding counterfeit currency. From a procedural standpoint, counterfeit money is forwarded to the U.S. Secret Service, the primary agency dealing with the issue. Counterfeiters are typically charged with forgery under federal and state statutes, with additional charges of theft for services and/or products purchased with counterfeit money.
If anyone has information involving the particular individuals or counterfeit money being passed in the Verde Valley, they are encouraged to contact Cottonwood Police at 649-1397, the Camp Verde Marshals Office at 5548300, the appropriate jurisdiction according to location or Silent Witness at (800) 932-3232. CPD also reminded merchants to examine currency before accepting it.
For information on the identifying features of legitimate U.S. currency, visit uscurrency. gov/seven-denominations.