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Funny money passers nabbed

May 4, 2012

Officials with the Big Spring Police Department say Wednesday's arrest of a pair of alleged counterfeiters could be tied to recent reports of fake bills in other Permian Basin cities, however, it's too early in the investigation to know for sure.

James Anthony Griego, 17, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the county detention center Thursday by the BSPD on a charge of forgery of a government instrument after police officials say he and a juvenile suspect tried to pass counterfeit $100 bills at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter.

According to Sgt. Tony Everett, public information officer with the BSPD, cashiers with the local department store spotted the fake bills and alerted authorities.

“The cashiers weren't fooled by the counterfeits, which weren't of a very high quality at all,” Everett said. “They altered the police department. The suspects left the store without the merchandise because the store employees are not allowed to detain the suspects.

“Shortly after the call came in on the counterfeit bills, a patrol officer spotted a vehicle matching the description fitting the one provided by the employees at Wal-Mart. The occupants in the vehicle also fit the description and they were arrested and charged.”

Everett said this may not be the first time the paid have tried to pass funny money in the Big Spring area.

“We've had similar counterfeit $100 bills turn up previously,” Everett said. “We had one show up at the H-E-B a while back that was very similar to the ones these two were trying to pass. We're not sure if they were passing them or if they might have made their way there by circulation. The investigation is ongoing.”

Everett said the Secret Service — the federal agency charged with investigating most cases of counterfeiting U.S. Currency — has been notified.

“We're not sure yet, but there's a chance this case is tied to other counterfeiting cases in Midland and Odessa,” Everett said. “We're hoping the Secret Service will get involved and pick up the investigation in a larger scope so we can see how far this thing goes.”

In the meantime, Everett said local vendors should be on the lookout for fake bills that could still be in circulation.

“The bills that were being passed Wednesday weren't of high quality at all. It's not hard to tell they aren't the genuine article,” Everett said. “Trust your senses and use the resources you have available to you. Nothing is foolproof, but the pens that identify real bills are very helpful in most situations. Only very, very old $100 bills aren't compatible with them.”

To report a counterfeit bill, contact the Big Spring Police Department at 264-2550.

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