Counterfeit bills on the rise in Greeley

25 Apr

Bogus bills — $100s, $50s and even $5 bills — are showing up in Greeley stores, and police are putting merchants on alert.

Last week, police arrested four Denver people for allegedly trying to pass phony $100 bills and even found two of the counterfeit bills hidden in an unusual place on one of the suspects.

The fours arrests: Serene Donlan, 26; Ebonee Bryant, 27; Helaman Lucero, 25, and Felicia Munoz, 24; were all Denver residents. Three of them are women, and Lucero was identified by police as a “transsexual — a man living as a woman.”

All four were booked into Weld County Jail on charges of forgery and theft.

According to court records, the four suspects were arrested by police after four stores in the Centerplace Shopping Center in west Greeley reported they were given counterfeit $100 bills.

The suspects were also accused of passing some of the counterfeit bills at the Outlet Stores in Loveland.

Officers recovered several $100 bills that were counterfeit, according to court affidavits, and when officers asked Lucero about other counterfeit bills, Lucero said they were hidden in a specific area of his body. Police sent Lucero to a restroom, where he removed the bills and left them on the restroom floor for police to collect.

In most cases, the four suspects went to stores, purchased gift certificates for about $25, and got the rest of the money in change.

In downtown Greeley, Kimberly Bode of Woody’s Newsstand, 9th Avenue and 10th Street, said she’s received four counterfeit bills in the past few months.

“One was a $5 bill that was changed to look like a $50 bill,” Bode said. “When we took the 50, our employee used the pen to check the bill, and it showed up as real.”

Many stores now use a counterfeit detector pen, and the ink will change color to black when it’s used on a phony bill. When the bill was checked at Woody’s, it didn’t change color because the counterfeiter had used a real $5 bill.

Bode said they also received three phony $5 bills in the past few weeks, but they were poor copies and should have been caught by the employees.

“But they (the counterfeit bill passers) usually hit a store at its busiest time,” Bode said, “so the clerks don’t always have the time to check a $5 bill closely.”

Greeley Police Officer Greg Tarantino works with downtown merchants on crime problems and offers advice about counterfeit bills.

“In most cases, the ink, paper and printing on the phony bills are very different, very poor quality,” Tarantino said.

Merchants who get a bill that appears to be phony should refuse to give change to the customer and call 911. The clerk or merchant should not try to detain the customer if he or she leaves.

“In most cases,” Tarantino said, “I tell merchants that if a bill feels funny, it probably is.”

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