BY KEN LITTLE
High-quality counterfeit money is turning up with increasing frequency in this area, including $100 bills that are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
Several reports filed this week indicate there is plenty of counterfeit money circulating in the area.
An employee of Pizza Plus in Mosheim told sheriff's deputies that he delivered a pizza about 9 p.m. Monday to an address in the 200 block of Cherokee Street in Mosheim, "where he was met by a vehicle in a driveway," Deputy Toby Price said in a report.
A man in a white minivan or sport utility vehicle met the delivery person at his car and gave him a $100 bill. He took the pizza from the employee and received $81.90 back in change, the report said.
The man then "jumped into the vehicle and sped off" toward Main Street, the report said.
A check of the bill showed it to be counterfeit, the report said.
A woman had called the order in to Pizza Plus. The Cherokee Street address was a vacant house that was for sale, the report said. Deputies were given a description of the man and the vehicle he was driving. The fake $100 bill was taken into evidence.
2 BILLS PASSED
A counterfeit $10 bill was passed about 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Wendy's restaurant at 13350 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy., sheriff's Deputy Billy Walters said in a report.
The manager told deputies that a man pulled up to the drive-thru window, ordered a meal and paid with a $10 bill.
"It showed up to be counterfeit" and the man asked for it back, the report said. When employees told him he could not get it back, he went into the restaurant and asked for a copy of it.
The man was told there was no way to make a copy of the bill and that the sheriff's department was on the way. The man left the restaurant and drove off, the report said.
A counterfeit $20 bill was passed at the Quick Stop Market at the same address about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, sheriff's Deputy Michael Jones said in the report.
The clerk told deputies that a man with brown hair and a goatee bought $35 worth of merchandise. When the clerk checked the bill, it was found to be counterfeit, the report said.
"The man asked him to check the rest of his money, finished paying, got gas and left," the report said.
The bill was taken into evidence.
Another instance was reported Monday afternoon, when a fake $100 bill was passed at the Okee Dokee Market at 2366 Blue Springs Parkway.
The store manager told sheriff's deputies that a woman attempted to purchase a six-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes with a fake $100 bill.
The woman, who was later interviewed by detectives, told deputies that a man she knew had given her the bill, which was taken into evidence.
Another counterfeit $100 bill turned up Sept. 30 at an Andrew Johnson Bank branch in a deposit from Greeneville Outfitters on Asheville Highway, police said in a report. An employee of the business didn't know who passed the bill.
BILLS AT BANK BRANCH
Other recent reports include two counterfeit $20 bills that were identified Oct. 10 at the Capital Bank branch in Mosheim after they were brought in by a customer.
The bank manager told sheriff's deputies that the man who brought the bills in did not know when he received them, "but was unsure if they were real, so he decided to bring them to the bank," a report said.
A counterfeit $20 bill was passed on Oct. 5 at the Quick Stop market in the 12000 block of West Andrew Johnson Highway, but the clerk determined the bill wasn't real before the customer left, sheriff's deputies said in a report.
The clerk told deputies that the man who tried to pass the bill was buying peanuts and crackers. When told the bill was counterfeit, "he became angry and paid with another bill" and left with the fake $20, the report said.
A woman attempted to pass a counterfeit $10 bill on Oct. 8 at Food City on Snapps Ferry Road. The woman told store managers she "had no idea where she received the counterfeit bill," the police report said.
A counterfeit $5 bill was discovered Oct. 9 by an Andrew Johnson Bank employee in a deposit from a Quick Stop Market on West Main Street. The bill was taken into evidence by Greeneville police.
Johnson City police charged two Pennsylvania men earlier this month with criminal simulation "after receiving multiple reports of counterfeit bills being passed at businesses," a report said.
Complaints said the two suspects had entered the businesses and passed counterfeit $100 bills in exchange for merchandise and left.
Elvin Jallah and Zakaria Sheriff, both 22, were arrested on Oct. 4.
NUMBER HAS INCREASED
Counterfeit $100 bills have been turning up in the area for some time, said Detective Lt. Ray Allen Jr., of the Greeneville Police Department.
From mid-August through last week, 16 counterfeit bills of different denominations were taken into evidence by Greeneville police, Allen said.
Thirty counterfeit bills have been identified in Greeneville from January to early October.
"Pretty much most of them, if not all, are made on a copier," Allen said. "It's picked up the last couple of months. Before that, it was pretty sporadic."
BIILS FROM PERU
The kind of paper used to make U.S. currency is almost impossible to duplicate. But criminals in Peru have come close, and counterfeit $100 bills made there are finding their way to Greene County, Allen said.
Many of the security features on real $100 bills have been successfully duplicated, Allen said.
Allen said some counterfeit $100 bills recently passed in Greene County are the best he has seen.
"I think these things are being made in South America using real currency paper. I've never seen anything like it," he said.
"They're tracking these up and down the East Coast."
Peru is now thought to be the world's top producer of counterfeit greenbacks.
Some 17 percent of the false bills circulating in the United States come from Peru, a U.S. law enforcement official recently told the news website GlobalPost.
Greeneville police and other law enforcement agencies work closely with the Secret Service on counterfeit money cases.
Counterfeiting gangs in Peru use offset printers rather than photocopiers.
Peru is also home to some of the world's most skilled counterfeiters, who employ painstaking, traditional techniques to give their bills apparent authenticity, according to a GlobalPost report.
There are other factors in the volume of fake money circulating in the area, Allen said.
"It seems like a lot of these people who are buying drugs will use counterfeit money to pay for it," he said. "A drug habit is so expensive."
Most of the people who attempt to pass counterfeit money are local, "but you've got people passing through" who also circulate the bills, Allen said.
Very few local businesses have counterfeit bill detectors, he said.
"The best thing to do is get a counterfeit detection device. That's the easiest method of detecting those counterfeits," Allen said.
The devices are relatively inexpensive and more reliable than the pens used to detect fake bills, which contain an iodine solution that reacts with the starch in wood-based paper to create a black stain.
When the solution is applied to the fiber-based paper used in real bills, no discoloration occurs. But if the pen is used for anything else other than to check bills for authenticity, it can be ruined, Allen said.
NEW $100 BILL
Perhaps in response to more sophisticated counterfeiting methods, the Federal Reserve Board recently announced that the new $100 bill will enter circulation this fall.
The $100 bill has been in development for more than 10 years.
Among the new features on the bill are a blue security ribbon, which runs vertically like a big felt-tip pen swipe next to Benjamin Franklin's head, and a gold inkwell with what appears to be a tattoo of a green Liberty Bell.
Different words and graphics emerge when the holder twists and tilts the $100 bill.