Clanton PD working 25 counterfeit cases

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Counterfeit money

Clanton Police Department has seized many counterfeit bills.

Clanton Police have arrested a Verbena woman and seized about $1,000 in counterfeit bills thought to have been printed in Chilton County.

Denise Courtney, 48, of Verbena was arrested July 23 and charged with possession of a forged instrument first degree, a Class B felony. She allegedly tried to spend a fake $20 bill at Jack’s restaurant in north Clanton and was found with $180 more in counterfeit money on her person.

That’s just one of 25 similar cases being handled by CPD. Counterfeit bills have also turned up in Jemison and in rural areas of the county — usually at gas stations and fast food restaurants.

“There’s nothing funny about this money,” said Clanton Police Detective Keith Maddox.

While counterfeit money is not uncommon here, more often than not, it comes from out of town. But over the past 30 to 45 days, an unusual number of bogus bills have surfaced — enough for local law enforcement to believe that the source is closer to home.

The most common denomination is the $20, although more $10 and $5 bills have started to show up.

“We want to make the business owners aware,” said Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell. “We believe it’s being manufactured in Chilton County. They’re targeting gas stations, buying cigarettes and getting $15 change in real money.”

Although the fake bills are not very high quality, the number of them is alarming. Stacks of bills have been found with identical serial numbers. Unfortunately, a few made it into circulation.

“Oftentimes, it’s an innocent bystander who passes the money,” Stilwell said.

That’s what almost happened at Sandy’s Bent & Dent in Cooper recently. According to owner Sandy Edwards, two women entered the store and one tried to pass a $20, but the cashier could tell it was not real — the ink smudged, the bill appeared to have a bluish tint, and the traditional tests failed.

But the customer did not seem to be aware of the problem.

“She just kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” Edwards said.

Edwards became concerned after hearing of similar incidents locally.

“Since I kept hearing, I thought, ‘Somebody’s got to get the word out,’” she said.

One sneaky trick used by counterfeiters is to mark the bill with a brown marker — simulating the mark made by a special pen used to detect counterfeits. The pen’s mark is supposed to turn a light brown if the bill is real; it turns much darker on a fake.

The trick is supposed to fool the cashier into thinking the bill has already been tested.

“It’s just another way of making it look real,” Stilwell said.

There are a few foolproof tests everyone should know about. Fake money will smudge if it gets wet. Also, holding a bill up to a light will reveal a security strip found in real money that is virtually impossible to duplicate.

Stilwell said small ultraviolet lights, as well as the pens, are available at most office supply stores.

“Some of this (counterfeit money) is so bad, but it still got accepted,” he said.

The U.S. Secret Service and the Jemison Police Department are aiding in the investigation. Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said at least one case in the Jemison area has Clanton connections.

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