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Counterfeit bills put merchants on alert

Twenty minutes after a man attempted to pass a counterfeit $100 bill at the Brundidge Piggly Wiggly Tuesday afternoon, a cashier at Piggly Wiggly Highway 231 in Troy accepted a counterfeit $100 bill from a man answering the same description.

Steve Garrett, owner of the Piggy Wiggly Highway 23, said a black male of average size and in his mid- to late-50s purchased a six-pack of beer and paid with a $100 bill.

“The man started asking questions probably trying to get the cashier confused or distracted,” Garrett said. “She checked the bill with a counterfeit pen and, according to the mark, it was not a counterfeit.”

The man left the store but the more the cashier thought about the bill, the more unsure she was. After looking more closely, she saw that the portrait didn’t match the watermark on the right corner of the bill.

“Benjamin Franklin was the portrait but Abraham Lincoln was sitting over there in the corner” Garrett said.

It was that odd combination that tipped off Laterah Baxter, a longtime cashier at the Brundidge Piggly Wiggly.

“When the man handed me the $100 bill, I noticed that his hands were shaking like he was nervous,” Baxter said. “I first noticed that the colors on the bill were a little blurred. I held the bill up to the light and I saw that there were two different faces on the bill.

“I took the bill to the office and showed it to Adam (Garrett) and he said that it couldn’t be real. When Adam stood up, the man ran from the store.”

Steve Garrett said that counterfeit money is being printed it such way that it is not detectible with the counterfeit pen. “Smaller denomination bills are being washed until much of the ink comes out,” he said. “Then, the larger denomination bill is being printed on it so it doesn’t show up as counterfeit when you mark it.”

However, Garrett said the watermark in the right-hand corner will be that of the original bill.

“If the portrait and the watermark don’t match, it’s counterfeit,” he said.

Video surveillance tapes at both Piggly Wiggly stores are being used to help police identify the individua(s) involved in the counterfeit money exchange at those stores.

Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, Troy Police Department public information officer, said merchants need to be aware that counterfeit money is being exchanged in the county.

“Prior to Tuesday, there have been four exchanges of counterfeit bills in denominations from 20s to 100s reported to the TPD,” Scarbrough said. “Some counterfeit bills are not easy to detect so we encourage cashiers to examine bills carefully. The watermarks and security strips are good ways to identify counterfeit bills. If the watermarks don’t match and the security strips don’t match with the denomination of the bill, then you have a counterfeit.”

Scarbrough said counterfeiting is a crime of forgery first degree.

Merchants are encouraged to contact local law enforcement with any incidents of counterfeit money being exchanged.