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by James Fisher
(September 23, 1998) At least five counterfeit $50 bills have been passed at Bridgeport area businesses since Monday, and police are searching for two men and a woman for allegedly passing the bills, said Sgt. Carl Springer, chief detective of the Bridgeport Police Department.
"It's just plain stupidity on the store clerks for not looking twice at these bills," he said Tuesday. "The quality of these bills is so poor you can tell as soon as you see them."
Four different stores in the Meadowbrook Mall area accepted the phony cash Monday between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Tuesday afternoon, Springer said. One other store clerk nearly accepted the bill, but instead, gave it back to the counterfeiter and asked for real money.
"That's how close we came to getting them," Springer said. "One clerk asked for a real fifty and actually gave back the fake and let them leave with it."
The suspects are believed to be driving a two-tone pickup truck. One of the men was described as a white male with a muscular build, light-colored hair, wire-rimmed glasses and a goatee or mustache.
Two of the bills were passed at Toys ÔR' Us, one at Elder-Beerman, one at Sports Plus and one at Phar-Mor, Springer said.
"I'd say they worked the mall over pretty good last night," he said. "By the time this is done, they'll probably hit all the stores at the mall and down the hill."
The mall lost power between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and little light existed, which is why Springer believes they were able to pawn the bills off as real.
Springer said he is unsure if any stores other than the ones in Bridgeport have been targeted.
He said the Secret Service has been contacted about the incidents. The agency will wait to see how much counterfeit cash is passed before beginning its own investigation, he said.
Springer said the serial numbers on the bills have been checked against a master list with the Secret Service and they are not on record.
Springer does not believe this latest counterfeiting incident is related to a string of counterfeit bills passed in the Morgantown area several months ago. He said the quality of these bills is vastly inferior to the Morgantown bills.
"The ones up there were done on a computer printer and were pretty good," he said. "These have been copied off a color copy machine. As soon as you pick them up you can tell they are fake."
Stores are not the only potential victims of the counterfeiters, however.
Shoppers who are accidentally passed a bill can be caught up in the problem, Springer said.
"They could possibly take a bill from a store and pass it on, thinking it is real, and get caught up in it," he said. "Someone thinking they are paying for something with good money can get into trouble."
Springer said one way for stores and residents to protect themselves from the counterfeit bills is to check for the security strip. The strip can be seen when held to the light. It is on the left side of the bill and states the denomination of the bill.
Springer said the funny money being passed is of the new $50 bills, and it does not contain the easily-seen strip embedded into each bill.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact Springer at 842-8264 or their local police agency.