Beware of fake money in St. Johns and Putnam counties

Fake bills look real, but have Chinese symbols on them

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – Sheriff's departments in two counties are warning of counterfeit money being passed in the area.

Counterfeit cash continues to make its way across St. Johns County. Two more cases have been reported since the arrest of two women in a counterfeit cash operation last week.

Following the arrests of 21-year-old Michele Brown and 20-year-old Jazmyne Cushion, who face multiple fraud charges after they were caught using fake money in several St. Augustine stores, deputies are still looking for the man they claim to be the ring leader of the operation.

"It's the largest trend we've seen over the last couple of months," said Commander Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

A woman showed up at the Gate station near I-95 and State Road 16. She used a $100 bill for $5 worth of gas.

It wasn't until after the woman got her change back from the $100 bill, did the clerk check with the counterfeit detection pen. It's a mistake the manager says won't happen again.

The manager says it happened during the evening rush. That's when deputies say businesses are most at risk.

A Papa Johns pizza delivery man got duped after a customer paid with a fake $50 bill. The deliveryman said the bill felt funny and did not look right. When he showed it to his manager, they realized it was a fake and weren't able to locate the person who gave it to him.

"With high-end scanners and printers, it's very easy to get the image," Mulligan said. 

Mulligan said that there are a lot of security features that can't be duplicated.

Be sure to feel the bill.

"You'll feel that it's slightly thicker than paper, there's texture to it," Mulligan said. "The Liberty Bell is raised, the Treasury Department stamp is embossed on the money. There is a security strip that runs through the money, it's woven into the money, it's not something a printer will pick up."

Deputies also recommend business owners use a counterfeit detector pen or scanner to make sure the money is legitimate. Whether the store is busy or not, taking the extra moment to check the bill will keep you from becoming a victim.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is also warning people to be on the lookout for counterfeit money with Chinese writing on it. 

The Sheriff’s Office has received several reports of fraud involving the fake bills and is investigating each complaint. The fake bills look like real money and can be in any domination, but they have Chinese symbols on them.

The symbols are found on the front and back of the bills.  Detectives have learned this is Chinese “training money,” typically used to train bankers in China who deal with international currency and is marked with a warning in Chinese not to pass it.

Detectives are seeing a growing trend of these bills being passed, and are encouraging business owners and residents to check all cash they receive to ensure counterfeit money is not being used.

If you have received counterfeit money or have information about those passing it around, contact Detective Kacie Reynolds at 386-329-0832 or the Sheriff’s Office at 386-329-0800.

Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers by calling 1-888-277-Tips (8477) or texting Tip231 plus your message to CRIMES (274637).