With at least eight cases of counterfeit cash being passed at local businesses since Jan. 16, a Maryland State Police detective is encouraging merchants to be watchful about the money they are accepting.
One of the most recent cases occurred Feb. 11, when police received a report that a manager at the Bob Evans restaurant at 1721 Dual Highway noticed a $20 counterfeit bill had been used at the restaurant, according to Lt. Tom Langston of the Hagerstown Police Department.
On Feb. 2, a counterfeit $10 bill was used at the McDonald’s restaurant at 1737 Dual Highway, Langston said.
A male attempted to use the bill, but workers at the restaurant were able to identify it as counterfeit and kept it, Langston said.
Workers were unable to identify the male, Langston said.
On Jan. 26, state police were notified about a counterfeit $20 bill that was detected at the Wendy’s restaurant on Sharpsburg Pike near the intersection with Interstate 70, Cpl. Chris Barnard said.
It was determined the bill was counterfeit through the use of a special marker, Barnard said.
If the mark turns dark, like the one on the $20 bill from Wendy’s, it’s an indicator that the bill might be counterfeit, Barnard said. But if the mark stays light, it is normal currency, he said.
Although people at the restaurant marked the bill, they did not do so until after the person left, so no one knows who passed the bill, state police Detective Sgt. T. Gregory said.
Gregory encouraged businesses, in order to help authorities track the source of the fake money, to be vigilant about who might be passing suspect currency.
Officials at the restaurant’s bank told eatery operators that they noticed two other counterfeit $20 bills in their deposits over a two-week period before the counterfeit bill was found Jan. 26, Barnard said.
Five other cases of counterfeit money are being handled by the Hagerstown Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
City police detective Sgt. Jim Hurd declined to say whether investigators believe the cases are related.
Counterfeit money is a problem that requires constant vigilance, police said.
"It never really goes away," Hurd said.
Periodically, there are people who think they can "get away with it," and they keep passing the fake money, Hurd said.
Other recent incidents include:
On Jan. 16, a bogus $10 bill was used at Byers Stop-N-Go on Burhans Boulevard, city police said.
On Jan. 17, a $100 counterfeit bill was used at Papa John’s pizza at 190 S. Cleveland Ave. On the same day, a counterfeit $100 bill and two counterfeit $20 bills were passed at the Big Lots store at 1105 Maryland Ave., police said.
The next day, two counterfeit $20 bills were presented at Domino’s Pizza at 141 N. Prospect St., police said.
On Jan. 21, the sheriff’s office reported a theft in the 17500 block of Virginia Avenue when a $66.31 bill for Domino’s Pizza delivery was paid for with counterfeit money.
Because counterfeit bills are confiscated as evidence, businesses that accept them are out of the money when they are taken, according to Gregory and state police 1st Sgt. Kevin Lewis.
The U.S. Secret Service also is notified when counterfeit cash is found. Its agents work to determine if the fake money is part of an organized ring, Lewis and Gregory said.