Fake cash rolls into town

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

The old saying always goes that tourism brings much-needed money to a local economy. And some bean counters even suggest the money turns over four or five times after it initially is spent.

That money, however, isn’t worth a flip to the local economy when it eventually turns over into the hands of the United States Secret Service.

Demopolis Police Det. Tim Soronen has licked a lot of envelopes addressed to the Secret Service this week after a rash of counterfeit money has hit local stores like a cheap piece of paper.

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Over the past two weekends, beginning April 11, Marengo County has hosted both the Crawfish Festival and a bike rally.

This week, Soronen has stopped at banks around Demopolis and picked up two fake $50s and two fake $20s. He can’t estimate how much more fake money is circulating through the county, but Soronen conceded that he’s probably found most of the counterfeits left by tourists.

Most consumers at events like a bike rally don’t spend a lot of time analyzing the change they receive from a T-shirt vendor, but Soronen said the biggest problem happens when that money is circulated into the Demopolis economy.

Once consumers put the change in their pocket, they’ll often use the money at another local store, and that’s where Demopolis Police believe the catch should be made.

Often, store clerks can be seen testing a large bill with an orange marker, but Soronen said that isn’t the most effective way to spot a bad bill.

Once store clerks accept fake cash, they send the money to a bank. That, Soronen said, is where tellers quickly feel the difference between a fake and real piece of money.

While taking bad money and losing out on the costs of accepting a counterfeit bill is bad enough, Soronen said stores can help put a stop to the circulation of fake money.

Most times, the person handing over the money doesn’t know it’s counterfeit, he said.

If store clerks did a better job of checking for fake bills, and alerted the customers, Soronen said it would be easier to track where the fake money came from.

Because U.S. Highway 80 is such a traveled road, Soronen said having counterfeit money in Demopolis isn’t an abnormality.

Though solving a counterfeit case is difficult and requires the assistance of the Secret Service, Soronen said businesses can do a lot to help curb the problem.