BY KEN LITTLE
Counterfeit money is turning up in Greene County with increasing frequency. Authorities have noticed, and the U.S. Secret Service is now assisting local law enforcement agencies with the investigation.
"I'll get one or two throughout the year, but when you have an influx of them, you contact the Secret Service," said Angie Weems, an evidence technician with the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
Counterfeit money passed locally since July include fake $100, $20, and $10 bills. One instance last week resulted in the arrest of a Greeneville man.
Danny Norton, 36, of 34 Airport Road, was charged Aug. 23 with criminal simulation and filing a false report after allegedly paying for two pizzas with a pair of counterfeit $20 bills, according to a report filed by sheriff's deputies.
On Aug. 22, the Greeneville Papa John's restaurant received a call from a woman ordering two pizzas, to be delivered to the Airport Road address.
"The caller stated she had two $20 bills to pay for it and would need change," the report said.
The driver arrived at the mobile home. Two people were sitting outside. One was Norton, who handed the driver two $20 bills. He received $15 in change and tipped the driver 85 cents, the report said.
The bills were later determined to be counterfeit.
Phony money started turning up in Greeneville earlier this year. The bills were passed at various businesses, and began to be noticed in bank deposits.
"We will get several at one time, and we will make some arrests, and it will die down, and then it will come back," said Greeneville police Detective Capt. Terry Webb.
Perpetrators "usually try to pass them at a busy time, or a lot of times, they will look for a younger clerk that doesn't have as much experience," Webb said.
The latest instance of reported counterfeit money in Greeneville was on Monday, when a Kmart employee preparing receipts for a bank deposit noticed four suspicious-looking $100 bills. Police were notified.
A Kmart loss prevention specialist later contacted police and said he had a video of a possible suspect.
"We've made three arrests in the last month. We've had arrests with people passing them, but not arrests with manufacturing," Webb said.
In the county, counterfeit bills were noticed circulating around early July. Some were passed at fireworks stands before the Fourth of July holiday.
"We started seeing it pick up in July," Weems said. "We have seen more than usual."
The Sheriff's Department is working with Greeneville police investigators to determine the source of the fake bills.
"We have been in touch with the Secret Service," Weems said.
The counterfeit bills that have been recovered "are not great quality," she said. Webb agreed.
"We are following up on some leads," Weems said.
People caught passing counterfeit cash are generally prosecuted by the state. The Secret Service and federal government get involved "when we find the person who is making (the money)," Weems said.
The Secret Service may be better known for protecting the president, but the federal agency is also responsible for tracking down counterfeiters.
"We work with the Secret Service, and that's one of their specialties, investigating counterfeit bills. They've got a lot of resources, so that's at our disposal," Webb said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is also involved in the investigation, he said.
In fiscal year 2009, the Secret Service took about $182 million in counterfeit money out of circulation, more than twice the total seized the previous year. The most commonly counterfeited denomination is the $20 bill.
For tips on identifying counterfeit bills, visit this Secret Service website: http://www.secretservice.gov/money_detect.shtml