Counterfeit $50 bills circulated through Ames

Kati Jividen

Three area businesses were duped over the weekend by counterfeit $50 bills, and detectives at the Ames Police Department said other businesses may have been hit as well.

Bill Greene, Ames Police detective, said cashiers at KMart, 1405 Buckeye Ave., Staples, 1333 Buckeye St., and Hy-Vee, 640 Lincoln Way, received the counterfeit bills from a white male last weekend.

Detectives currently are examining video surveillance tapes to locate the perpetrator of the crime.

“There might be several others [involved], but because of their deposits and bookkeeping being sent away, we don’t know yet,” he said. “The reason we think there are a couple more is because we’re going around and warning businesses.”

Detectives said the only fraudulent bills found so far are the new style of $50 bills, which are supposed to be less susceptible to counterfeiting.

“In the past we had some older $20 [bills] round and about, but now it is the $50 [bills] circulating around,” said Jerry Spencer, Ames Police detective.

Upon examination, Greene said the counterfeit bills are missing identification fibers and the watermark seal, which is a picture of Ulysses S. Grant only visible when held up to the light.

“The printer they’re using is not as defined on certain details,” Greene said. “There is more of a blurred picture, especially in the back. The color is not there, and they’re not into a direct science of making something square … the cutting [of the edges] is up and down.”

Spencer said the bills also have identical serial numbers.

“You can catch [the bills] by paying closer attention to them when you’re not real busy,” he said. “When they get busy, the [cashiers] take them, and it is caught by the bank.”

Curt Snitker, manager of Staples, said the counterfeit bill that passed at his store was detected when the cashier counted their drawer down at the end of the day.

“It wasn’t a quality bill,” he said. “The cashier that caught the bill was relatively new, but it’s typically not something we have a problem with.”

Snitker said his cashier will not be disciplined for taking the bill because “no one accepts one on purpose.”

But, he said, his business is probably out $50.

“The only chance of getting it replaced is if the person gets apprehended and told to make restitution,” he said. “It could be a long time running.”

Spencer said it is hard to determine who is passing the money because there are many money-laundering operations nationwide.

“It may be someone who, just by chance, had gotten it and passed it not knowing they had it, or someone who is printing it and getting the money out of it,” he said.

If someone is handed a counterfeit bill, and the person still is in front of the cashier, Spencer said to call the Ames Police Department so they can speak to the customer.

“Try to talk to the person and have them stay there for a while or follow them out of the store to see what kind of vehicle they get into,” he said. “Be a good witness, but try not to detain them because that will cause problems.”

Spencer said employees also should contact officers even if the person passing the bill is not there so they can come and pick the bill up.

Both Spencer and Greene said if the perpetrator is apprehended, he will probably be prosecuted in federal court since all counterfeit cases are managed by the Secret Service.

“Sometimes they decline that and leave it up to us through the Story County Attorney’s Office for prosecution,” Greene said. “They decide if it will be a theft or counterfeiting charge.”