Counterfeit bills are a huge problem in Northeast Ohio: Here's why

Motion picture money, bills from overseas with Chinese lettering and just plain fake looking cash — popping up in cities and communities across Northeast Ohio.

Westlake, Sandusky, Bucyrus, Solon, Perkins Township, Lorain County, Painesville, Fairview Park and more are leaving victim after victim in their wake.

Why here?

We took that question to Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Schuck. 

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He said counterfeiting tends to spike during the holidays. Their office in Cleveland sees about $1 million in counterfeit a year, but Ohio's laws can play a role too. 

"We're trying to create a local statute for local police departments to give them something to charge people with," Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Schuck said.

Because when the case isn't big enough to be handled by the Secret Service, News 5 was told, often times, police departments are mischarging people with criminal simulation and theft. Both misdemeanors.

"These police departments are charging people with misdemeanors because there's nothing on the code, right?" we asked.

"Correct, I've seen different charges and we asked a lot what can we even charge them with because there's not a specific counterfeit money charge," Schuck answered. 

That's where recently introduced House Bill 405 comes into play. 

Secret Service agents are working with Ohio House Representatives right now on the bill to add counterfeiting, by name, to the criminal code. 

Ohio is one of only ten states that doesn't have a counterfeiting law in their code, which is why it's hard for police to go after lower level offenders.

But for now? With more and more counterfeit and fake bills showing up, authorities warn you to just be careful. 

"Whoever holds that counterfeit bill the last time takes the loss on it," Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Schuck said.

Does this leave you wanting to check on your own wallet? Here are tips from the Secret Service on how to tell real from fake.

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