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Officials looking into use of fake bills

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brazil Police Chief Dave Archer
A recent investigation into a Brazil man allegedly using counterfeit money during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival has sparked concern by local law enforcement officials for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

"With the increased shopping and money changing hands so much around the holidays, people really need to check their currency," Brazil Police Chief Dave Archer told The Brazil Times.

According to Archer, Kirk Bradley Morton, 48, was arrested Oct. 25 for attempting to use as legal tender/payment three counterfeit $100 bills on Oct. 14.

The Clay County Prosecutor's Office formally charged Morton with class D felony counterfeiting and one count of class A misdemeanor false informing for hindering the investigation. Morton allegedly would not tell officers where the money came from.

Morton is scheduled to appear for his initial hearing in Clay Superior Court on Nov. 23.

While this appears to be an isolated incident, officials still urge people and businesses to use caution and check all large bills for signs of being counterfeit.

"Counterfeiters normally try to fake large bills, like denominations of $20, $50 and $100. A good way to check is to feel the bill, because bills are not printed on paper, they have a clothe-like texture to them. You can also hold the bill up to a light and look for the security strip embedded in the bills. If someone suspects they are in possession of funny money, they can drop by the department or take it to a bank to have it officially checked."

The United States Secret Service's mission is to (1) safeguard the nation's financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the US economy, and to (2) protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites and National Special Security Events.

With regards to their first objective, the agency believes the public plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of U.S. currency. By becoming more familiar with United States currency, citizens can help guard against the threat from counterfeiters.

Although new bills have added security features, counterfeiters still try to replicate the bills. The agency provides several tips to help people spot "fakes" when taking a careful look at a questionable bill, which includes:

* Always try to compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying specific attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities,

* The portrait on the bill should appear lifelike and distinctly stand out from the background. A counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat, with details merging into the background that is often too dark or mottled,

* On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp, while counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points,

* The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken, while the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork on a counterfeit bill may appear blurred and indistinct,

* Serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced on genuine bills. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. However, on a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal and the numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned, and

* A new feature of current currency is the "unique paper" it is printed on. This paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.

Depending upon the nature and severity of the case, suspects allegedly involved with counterfeiting can be charged at the state or federal level. Federal violations, or "counterfeit cases" as these are sometimes identified, are found in Title 18 of the United States Code, Sections 470 (et seq.).

Archer said if a counterfeit bill is located, people are urged to contact local law enforcement with as much information as possible about the incident.

"If someone uses counterfeit money -- whether they had it accidentally or intentionally -- there will be an investigation whenever counterfeit money is located so law enforcement officials can trace it hopefully back to it's origins," Archer said.

"The problem is, if you are in possession of a counterfeit bill, you are out the amount of the bill. That could be an unnecessary expense during the holidays."

Safe shopping

'Tis the season for Yuletide cheer and regretfully some grinches who are looking for ways to steal the holiday spirit.

"It only takes a moment to become a shoplifting victim during the holiday season," Brazil Police Chief Dave Archer said. "Women shouldn't leave their purses and men shouldn't leave their coats with wallets inside unattended in shopping carts."

Some tips for shoppers to consider that might lesson the possibility of falling prey to a yuletide criminal, include:

* Always keep the car locked, even if parked at home in the driveway,

* Do not leave packages from shopping trips in plain sight inside a vehicle, put them in the trunk or at least cover them up so they can't be seen. Don't leave car phones, purses, CD cases, purchased merchandise or any other item of value where it can be easily seen inside a vehicle,

* Remember there is safety in numbers, so take a friend or family member holiday shopping,

* Park in well lighted areas, remembering where the car is parked. Also, know where the facility's security office is located in case of emergency, and

* When using an ATM machine, whether day or night, pick a machine that is well lit and visible to passing traffic while paying attention to any suspicious activity near the machine. If anyone is lurking nearby the ATM, pass it up and find another.

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