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Thursday, January 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Local cops close case on counterfeit money

By Ralph Bartholdt Lewiston Tribune

Funny money seized by police in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley in the past two weeks has been sent to federal investigators and detectives have closed the case – at least for now.

The two phony $100 bills, one of them collected at Lewiston’s WinCo Foods and the other at Wal-mart in Clarkston, were among five faux bills seized by local authorities. The bills, three of which were passed in Lewiston, are in the hands of the U.S. Secret Service. The only unusual thing about the two bogus C-notes, said Lt. Budd Hurd with the Lewiston Police Department, is that the Secret Service in Spokane did not have record of their serial numbers.

“They were identical bills,” Hurd said.

Bills copied on laser printers from a single $100 bill will have the same serial number, making them easy for federal agents to trail. Bills with identical serial numbers are often passed by the same person or group of people – at least initially. Hurd said because the bills in question were not on the federal radar, it is conceivable that they were newly made and spread in the valley by the same person.

“Hundred-dollar bills usually catch the attention of the Secret Service,” Hurd said. “They can see where that bill has showed up in (other) cities.”

But local authorities will not know if the bills originated in the valley or elsewhere because the color printers used to produce high-quality counterfeit money are widespread, cheap, easy to get and hard to track. In addition, many counterfeiters don’t make big batches of money, but instead cautiously produce phony bills in small quantities, according to police.

“We never know if they were made locally,” Hurd said.

The best way to tell if a bill is fake is by feel, police said. The paper used by the Treasury Department is unique, and counterfeiters often attempt to duplicate its feel by acid washing lesser-quality paper or otherwise wrinkling it. Tellers and merchants tease out bad bills by holding them up to a light to view security strips inside the bills that match the money’s denomination. Store clerks also use special pens that leave a color on real bills when they are marked, Hurd said.

Without a better lead, Hurd said his detectives will not spend hours looking at surveillance equipment in an attempt to find a suspect. That means the cases will be closed for now and the bills shipped north.

“These bills are all headed to Spokane,” Hurd said. “There are no active cases.”

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