LEMOORE — Police are warning citizens to be on the lookout as Lemoore businesses have reported receiving fake $100 bills.
Cmdr. Steve Rossi said the Lemoore Police Department has had four reports of counterfeit $100 bills being passed at local businesses since Sept. 12. The phony bills have shown up at Best Buy Market and Bank of America. Rossi said the Bank of America report involved an Armona business owner who had received one of the bills as payment.
The Lemoore Police Department posted on Facebook about the fake bills Sunday. Police said the bills appear to be printed on genuine currency paper that has been “washed” and reprinted to look like $100 bills. Washing allows the fakes to pass as real when marked with a currency pen or marker.
Rossi said those types of bills are typically produced using paper from $1, $5 or $20 notes. Rossi said it’s not clear what process the counterfeiters used in the recent reports. The fake bills also included forged watermarks and microprinting.
“Until someone gets caught and someone talks, it’s hard to know what they did or why,” Rossi said.
Rossi said police aren’t sure if the fake bills are related because they have been passed by different people at different locations. He said most of the people with the bills have cooperated with police.
“Only one time, I think, the person did not stick around,” Rossi said.
Rossi said police also recently received a report regarding a phony bill that said “for motion picture use only.” However, he said, that incident doesn’t appear to be related to the other cases.
Kelly Yarnal, branch manager for FAST Federal Credit Union in Hanford, said she occasionally sees counterfeit bills. She said credit union staff is trained to look for and recognize them.
“The first thing that we notice is that the paper isn’t right,” Yarnal said.
According to the U.S. Currency Education Program, currency paper consists of a blend of linen and cotton with small red and blue security fibers embedded randomly throughout the paper.
Real $100 bills feature a watermark of Benjamin Franklin, a security thread to the left of the portrait, color-changing ink and microprinting throughout the design. The microprinting includes the words “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” along Franklin’s collar, a small “100” in the note’s vertical borders and “USA” along the bottom of Franklin’s portrait.
Yarnal said many counterfeit bills are crudely made. A store cashier who doesn’t immediately know the difference between Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin may overlook a phony $100 bill.
“I’ve seen where they’ve taken a real $10 bill and added a zero on each side,” Yarnal said.
Besides looking for visual and tactile cues, tellers may also use a currency pen to check the authenticity of a small number of bills. Larger amounts of cash are passed through a machine that scans each bill to detect the presence or lack of multiple security features.
While it’s unclear if the recent Lemoore incidents are related, this isn’t the first time counterfeit bills have been passed in Kings County this year.
Back in March, Hanford police learned that a woman had passed a fake $100 bill at the A&W restaurant in the Hanford Mall food court. Despite surveillance video showing the woman during the transaction, police have not made any arrests in the case.
Hanford police Capt. Karl Anderson said he’s not aware of any other reports of counterfeit bills in the city since March.