Over $2000 dollars sits on Detective Paul Rueff’s desk in different denominations of bills, from $5 to $100, each one a fake. . .

Over $2000 dollars sits on Detective Paul Rueff’s desk in different denominations of bills, from $5 to $100, each one a fake. Detective Rueff has been collecting these false bank notes, and the police reports attached to them, since Oct 1, 2016, attempting to trace them back to the ones who knowingly put them into circulation. One of the top bills on this stack made it’s most recent pass through St. James, and  according to the local police department, the town has encountered over $500 in counterfeit cash only recently.

Detective Rueff handles the financial cases for the area, a job that continually brings him into contact with counterfeit bills like these. Some are obvious forgeries, while others can be genuinely clever copies, but the common thread between them is the harm they have on our economy. Detective Rueff has been instrumental in solving counterfeit cases in the past seven years, and is working on the pile being brought to him now. Even though the forgeries might be different, Detective Rueff handles each case the same way.

“I look for witnesses; who handled the money and then I follow it from there,” said Detective Rueff. “Who handled it and where did it come from?”

The bills currently being passed around resemble play money props used in movies, and even feature a disclaimer at the top—“motion picture use only”. Other than that, it’s easy for the eye to scan over the bill and miss the small differences that set real and counterfeit apart.

“There are a number of things you look for in your modern money,”  said Detective Rueff. Any $100 bill will feature a security strip that isn’t printed on the paper beneath. And all bills will have color-shifting ink in the bottom corner, which will change color when the viewer tilts the bill in front of their eye. This ink is one of the best ways for local residents to identify potential fake bills, as this has not been able to be replicated yet, according to Detective Rueff.

He also warned that other common practices aren’t as foolproof as some people may think. For example, the pen some retailers use to mark large bills only tells the user if the bill was printed on cotton blended paper. Since many forgers can use this paper in their bills, this isn’t always a surefire way to detect any counterfeit bills being received.

“I have found good copies,” said the detective. He said that “feeling the difference” by rubbing the bills between your fingers, isn’t the best test either.

While counting machines used in banks are able to catch the majority of these forgeries, they can easily pass through other obstacles when close attention isn’t heeded.

“What we’re seeing happen is people paying for things in [fake] hundreds, putting a good bill on top.” As the money is transferred, the remaining bills aren’t examined as closely. Detective Rueff added that we’re “probably only seeing about half of it,” in terms of the total amount of fake money being passed around.

As to where the phony cash is coming from, it can be hard to pinpoint an exact source. Detective Rueff said some of the bills are even printed over seas in the far east. American money is in circulation all over the world, and some of it even finds its way back home to cause problems in the economy that inspired its design.

“Anytime you pass a counterfeit, you’re hurting the economy. That’s all there is to it. That note is spent so many times, it’s like the water running down the stream, it runs past everything. The note is the same way, it’s spent and spent again until it’s caught,” said Detective Rueff.

Detective Rueff theorized we may be hit harder due to the interstate. One note can pass all the way down 1-44, passed by someone coming through and spending the counterfeit cash as they travel.He encourages retailers and anyone else handling money to be aware of what they giving and receiving.

“Look your money over and learn the basic attributes of what to look for. Be cognizant of what you’re getting,” said Detective Rueff. Residents should learn to look for the color-shifting ink in the bottom corner, as well as being able to identify a false serial number. A real bank note will have eight digits followed by a letter.

If anyone thinks they are being given a false bank note, they are encouraged to try and hold onto it so they can turn it in, and to obtain a license number for any vehicle driven by the one handing out forged bills. Above all, residents should stay safe when dealing with someone they believe to be involved with counterfeiting.