Michael Cummings, Staff Writer
Counterfeit money in use around the City of Grinnell was identified this past week by the Grinnell Police Department (GPD). There have been a number of reports of counterfeit money being used in transactions throughout local businesses.
The problem was first noticed when several businesses discovered that some of the cash they brought to the bank was not being processed properly by the bank’s money processing systems. Upon further investigation, several suspicious $100 bills were found to be the cause.
“When our officers went over to examine, we in fact did discover that the bills, all of which were $100 bills, were in fact counterfeit,” said Sergeant Chris Wray of the Grinnell Police Department. “Some of the things we determined the bills to be counterfeit by were: there was no watermarks on the bills, all the bills had essentially the same exact serial numbers, the texture of the bill itself was paper, not that rough texture that a normal $100 bill … would have.”
Grinnell Police are not alone in working to find those responsible. The GPD is working with the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s office as well as the police departments of Williamsburg and Coralville, which have both recently experienced similar incidents.
Williamsburg is a town located about halfway between Grinnell and Iowa City. Coralville is a suburb of Iowa City.
The Secret Service has also gotten involved with the case. Their resources are limited due to the current presidential campaign season, but they have given some aid to the investigation.
“It is standard procedure to contact the Secret Service, simply because that is one of their responsibilities,” Wray said.
He added that the Secret Service has been helpful in running the counterfeit bills through their systems to see if they have been used elsewhere.
Wray is optimistic about the case, saying that they have collected strong evidence so far.
“There is very good progress being made, we do have some very good video surveillance of our suspect and of a suspect vehicle,” he said. “So, with that information we are working on identifying this main suspect.”
One of the key challenges in identifying the suspect is comparing surveillance from every business which has been hit by this crime to verify that the same person has committed each of the crimes. This, Wray said, is why it is key to work with police in other cities where this has been an issue.
There isn’t one specific profile for the kind of person who would commit this sort of crime. Wray said that he has dealt with counterfeiters of varied race, sex and age.
“With the economy the way it is … people are sometimes desperate to do things that maybe they wouldn’t do [otherwise],” Wray said.
He urged businesses in town to take precautions to ensure that they don’t become victims of counterfeiting.
“For the business owners in Grinnell, I would just caution that, [with] any individuals passing large denomination bills, that you’re checking them with a currency pen,” Wray said. “Always ask for identification from the individual presenting a large denomination.”