In less than a week, officers of the Orange Police Department have discovered evidence of counterfeit bills being distributed around the city in at least three separate incidents. Police reports indicate OPD received calls regarding counterfeit 10- and 20-dollar bills being passed at three locations from Dec. 13 through Dec. 16.
Dec. 13 at approximately 3:30 p.m., OPD Officer Robert Campbell was dispatched to Dairy Queen at 321 Strickland Drive in Orange in reference to a counterfeit 10-dollar bill. The manager of the restaurant reported a white male came in and attempted to pay for his food order with a suspicious looking bill. The manager went to the back to test the bill for authenticity and soon discovered the money was counterfeit. The man reportedly left the store before the manager was able to confront him. The counterfeit currency was kept in police evidence.
At about 6:18 p.m. on Dec. 15, OPD received another call regarding counterfeit money, only this time the restaurant accepted the cash before realizing it was fake. OPD Officer Jonathan Baggett responded to the call from Whataburger at 7241 Interstate 10 in Orange. The team leader reported that an employee working the drive-through of the restaurant unknowingly accepted two counterfeit 20-dollar bills from an unknown black female in a maroon 2000 Ford Mustang bearing license plate number BNJ4637 as payment for a food order. Baggett took the counterfeit bills into police evidence noting that the bills were slightly smaller than they should have been, there was no security strip and the border of the bills was disproportionate, all indicators the money was not real.
The third incident occurred on Dec. 16. OPD Officer Marcus Bernard was dispatched to the Star Stop located at 1402 16th St. in Orange at approximately 9:08 p.m. in reference to a counterfeit 20-dollar bill. The store clerk reported a known male had attempted to pay for items he was purchasing with the fake currency. When the clerk told the man the money appeared to be counterfeit, the customer told him he had received it as change from a local store. The counterfeit bill was turned over to police.
Captain Cliff Hargrave said investigating three incidents related to counterfeit currency within such a short span of time is “unusual” for OPD. He said about a year ago, OPD received some reports of counterfeit bills being passed, but since then they have seen very few instances.
The veteran officer said it is difficult to say whether any of the three incidents were related or if the bills were being distributed from the same source without further testing of the counterfeit currency. According to Hargrave, he has noticed from years on the job that a lot of counterfeit money is distributed during illegal drug deals.
“These drug dealers love to rip each other off,” he opined. “A lot of counterfeit money gets passed around in drug transactions.”
Hargrave said although fake bills might look better than in the past due to advanced printing capabilities, counterfeit money is usually fairly easy to identify. He said to look for the watermark that appears on legal currency, the security strip in the bill, the size of the bill, and the blue and red fibers woven into real money as indicators of authenticity.
“It’s pretty easy to tell the difference,” Hargrave said. “There is a different feel to it (counterfeit money). If you put a real bill in one hand and a counterfeit one in the other, you can tell the difference.”