NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Police are warning businesses and consumers to be on alert because of a spike in fake $50 bills and bogus Benjamins being passed around Stark County.
In North Canton, counterfeit money has surfaced at Gabe's, Goodwill, CVS, Walgreens, Family Dollar, and Giant Eagle since July.
"We are actually over 30 cases in the last six months. Stark County-wide, it has become a real big problem," said North Canton Sgt. Matthew Buzzard.
During the same time period, there have been 52 counterfeit cash investigations in Canton. That's up from 25 cases when compared to July to December 2020, according to Canton Police Chief Jack Angelo.
Buzzard said Gabe's on Whipple Avenue NW has been hit with phony money seven times.
During the crime that happened at Goodwill on Main Street, a man was arrested on the spot after allegedly trying to pay with two fake $50 bills, police said.
It's the type of crime that can really hurt a non-profit, according to Maureen Ater, the vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill Industries Cleveland.
"We rely almost entirely on the revenue that's generated through our stores so when we encounter situations of counterfeit cash, it really is a detriment to our business," Ater said.
Buzzard said some of the counterfeit currency is created through realistic-looking print jobs and other bogus bills are made by washing out lower amount bills with bleach and making them look like higher denominations such as $50 or $100.
The Secret Service said illegally passing "movie money", which can be purchased online, is costing millions nationwide even though the fake cash has the words "for motion picture use only" on it.
"We've had a few of these slip through if somebody is busy at a register, they just see the $50 or see the $100 and they just throw it in the drawer," Buzzard said.
According to Jonathan Schuck, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service Cleveland office, the total counterfeit that was passed in Northeast Ohio and entered into the database was $477,566.
The Breakdown of Total Notes received in the office is as follows:
- 75% Inkjet Notes - These are notes that are being made on regular printers. 14% of inkjet notes are bleached such as bleached $1 bills and bleached $5 bills.
- 15% Motion Picture Notes.
- 5% Foreign Text.
- 5% Other Printing Processes.
Buzzard stressed there are ways to spot a fake. He showed a News 5 crew a money counting machine that alarms when a bogus bill is detected and a counterfeit detection pen that can turn a fake bill a darker color, but the pen is not foolproof.
He also pointed out that real money has an embedded security stripe and a watermark that should only be seen when holding it up to light.
"Since 1996, I believe, money has been printed with a watermark, so if you hold it up to the light, you'll be able to see a silhouette of the actual portrait on the bill, " Buzzard said. "If you see a watermark on the bill without holding it up to the light, it's counterfeit."
Goodwill Industries uses a UV scanner at registers to detect possible counterfeits. With the influx of fake money floating around Stark County, the agency is on alert.
"They're working every day to make sure that we're really staying ahead on the training and the technology to identify counterfeit cash," Ater said.