ESCANABA - Some counterfeit $100 bills being spent in the Escanaba area may be linked to a juvenile from Florida, according to Escanaba Public Safety who are investigating recent reports of fake money.
"We're seeing counterfeit 100s and 20s. We just saw a $50 bill this weekend," stated Det. Lt. Tony LaPlant on Tuesday.
During the past three weeks, several incidents involving fake currency totaling about $3,000 - mostly $100 bills - have been reported to Escanaba Public Safety, he said.
Charges of uttering and publishing are pending against a Florida juvenile who was visiting relatives in the area and was allegedly caught attempting to use about $700 worth of counterfeit $100 bills in an Escanaba store, according to LaPlant.
Police have notified area law enforcement, businesses and banks to be on the look out for phony funds of any denomination.
"The majority of fake bills have shown up in nighttime deposits at banks," LaPlant said, explaining the deposits are from various local businesses which have unknowingly received the fake money from customers.
Though store clerks often mark larger bills with a special pen at the checkout, the ink only reacts to starch in paper counterfeit bills, the detective explained.
Real bills are made out of a cotton fiber-based paper and do not react to the ink from the pen.
LaPlant said the quickest way a counterfeit bill is usually detected is just by the initial feel and the size of the fake currency compared to other bills.
Other tests to help determine if bills are fake or not include special marks on real money. There is very fine printing on security threads such as a thin vertical strip showing the bill's denomination which can be viewed in light.
Other indicators of real money are portrait watermarks and the ability of each bill to glow a specific color under an ultraviolet light, he said.
Escanaba Public Safety forwards suspect counterfeit bills to the U.S. Secret Service, said LaPlant.
Banks may also send the phony money directly to the federal agency and may not necessarily report incidents to local law enforcement, he added.
Counterfeit bills are not new to the region, noted LaPlant. He suspects they're more common in the summertime because more currency is being circulated from people visiting from out of town.
In telephone inquiries made to other area police agencies, officials said counterfeit bills have not been a problem lately.
Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer said his department appreciated receiving detailed information from Escanaba Public Safety on how to detect counterfeit money and what to do if given a fake bill. Local banks were also informed, said Geyer.
LaPlant suggests not to put oneself in danger and to not return the suspect bill to the person who passed it. If possible, delay the person and observe the description of the individual, who they're with, and their vehicle including a license plate number. Then contact police.
LaPlant also advises those who receive fake bills to handle the suspect money as little as possible and place it in an envelope or plastic bag to hand over to police.
Counterfeit money deposited to banks typically does not count towards the deposit amount and the depositor is usually held accountable for the loss, according to a local banking representative.