Indianapolis businesses flooded with fake $100 bills

Businesses: Scammers using altered legit cash

INDIANAPOLIS - Dozens of phony $100 bills have flooded into Indianapolis businesses recently, and the victims tell Call 6 Investigators a certain criminal tactic is making it tougher for them to detect.

Businesses in Broad Ripple, as well as Cumberland and the eastside of Indianapolis all reported receiving fake $100 bills last week and police have surveillance video of at least two of the people who passed the bogus currency.

A Broad Ripple bank told Indianapolis Metro Police that it counted 15 fake $100 bills in a recent weekend stack of deposits made by businesses in the area.  Two of the bills were passed at Broad Ripple area Jimmy John’s restaurants.

“He knew to hit us on a Saturday evening,” said John Rooney, general manager of the  Jimmy John’s at Glendale Shopping Center on 62nd Street and Keystone Avenue, who noted that banks typically would not alert businesses that they accepted fake money until the following Monday morning.

“The guy knows what he’s doing.  He’s done it before,” Rooney told the Call 6 Investigators.

He said a man with distinctive tattoos on his left arm passed one of the bills while placing a small food order last week.  Store workers gave him more than $80 in real cash back as change in the transaction.

He said the bills feel authentic because they have raised printing on all four corners.    The counterfeiters apparently used real one-dollar bills that had been “washed” or wiped away so that markings for a $100 bill could be placed over them.

“We’re actually not taking $100 bills anymore until they sort this all out,” said Rooney.

A second Jimmy John’s on the Broad Ripple strip also received a phone $100 bill from the same man, police were told.

On the same day that the United States Treasury is beginning circulation of a new $100 bill with added security features, other Indianapolis area businesses are tallying much steeper losses from this week’s wave of counterfeit bills.

A Meijer store in Cumberland, just outside the eastern city limits of Indianapolis, reported that two women apparently worked together as they passed a total of 10 phony $100 bills on October 1.

Police said one woman was recorded on security camera video passing five phony bills for a $472.34 purchase.  She then took her new merchandise to a waiting car, where a second woman is seen exiting the vehicle to walk into the store for a new transaction.   The second woman is then recorded passing five counterfeit $100 bills for a $399.90 purchase.  The store handed her change back from that transaction.

Police have surveillance video of the Broad Ripple counterfeiter and the two women from the Cumberland store, but officers did not release it on Tuesday.

A Kroger store in the 4400 block of East 10th Street also reported to police last week that a female passed three fake $100 bills.   A police officer who was working security for the store questioned that woman, noting that the bills lacked security features and watermarks.   The woman was released without being charged with a crime after telling police she was given the bills by her boyfriend.

An eastside Indianapolis liquor store also reported to police that it has been peppered with fake $100 bills in the past week.

Ella Keller, manager of the Liquor Barn in the 4200 block of East New York Street said her boss threatened to take money from her paycheck if another bill is accepted at her counter.

“I work too hard for my money,” she said, adding that she has stopped accepting $100 bills at her store, which inconveniences legitimate customers.

“It’s just like they know they’re scamming you and they’re trying to get away with it,” she said.

Her staff uses a marker, which is supposed to detect counterfeit currency, but she said the marker indicated the bills were real because they are printed on altered $5 bills.

“It marks real because it’s a bleached out five,” said Keller.   “And they do it when we’re really busy,” she added.

She handed a reporter the latest fake bill to cross her counter, estimating that seven have been passed by customers in the past two weeks.   She said they typically buy only a pack of cigarettes or a single beer so that they can receive $80 to $90 in change with authentic currency.

The United States Secret Service is working with local police on the rash of counterfeit bills, said Acting Special Agent in Charge Lou Robinson.   He said he could not comment on pending investigations, but he noted that he was not aware of any spike or recent increase in counterfeit bills showing up at Indianapolis area businesses.

In the Broad Ripple counterfeit bills incident, police were told the man who passed bills at the Jimmy John’s restaurants stood about 6’1” and weighs about 200 pounds with a beard and moustache and a long black ponytail. 

His tattoo across his left arm displayed the word “perseverance,” according to the police report.

Rooney, the store manager, said his bank informed him that the fake bills were the highest quality phonies they had ever seen.

He suggested that other business operators pay extra close attention to the raised print at the four corners of the bills.  Upon closer inspection, he said the bills have raised printing on the “one” but lacked raised printing on the two zeroes that followed that one.  The raised printing on the “one” comes from the authentic one dollar bills that were altered to display $100 printing instead.

The man with the pony tail and the tattoo was well-dressed and confident in his demeanor, Rooney said.

“He definitely knew,” said Rooney.

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