Counterfeit currency creates complications for local businesses in Carbondale, Jackson County

By Courtney Alexander, Staff Reporter

Over the past decades, there have been several reports of counterfeit money circulating around Carbondale. The forged currency has been used at several businesses around the city and businesses have lost profit as a result. 

Officer Brandon Weisenberger, of the Carbondale Police Department, said Carbondale is a prevalent target for counterfeit currency due to individuals of the community having enhanced technological skills. Also this area has a higher volume for information that’s shared with other regions of the state. 

Forgery is the official legal term in Illinois, when you’re talking about counterfeiting actual physical currency, or credit cards, and debit cards,” Weisenberger said. “But I think the reason why you see a lot of documentation of that in Carbondale and Jackson County is that here in this area, we have a lot of media outlets. So we have a higher volume of information that’s being distributed and kind of comparable regions in southern Illinois.” 

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Weisenberger said during his time as a patrol officer, he’s seen a mix of local residents, SIU students and individuals passing through town attempting to use counterfeit bills. 

In my experience, I’ve been a cop here for ten years and I’ve specifically worked in financial crimes here for five years, and I saw a pretty even mix. There are many degrees and different methods of how you can commit forgery and how you can pass counterfeit currency. So I’ve seen it among the college population, I’ve seen it among our locals, I’ve seen it among different people just passing through town,” Weisenberger said. 

The local businesses of Carbondale are encouraged to train their employees to identify counterfeit currency and they should turn the forged money over to the police department. 

“When we are talking to point of sale employees like clerks, and people that are at a cash register, we encourage them to get used to the feel of currency, to always check for the watermark, and to invest in a counterfeit detector pen,” Weisengerger said. 

If any local resident unintentionally comes into possession of any counterfeit currency, the police department will conduct an investigation to see if there was any criminal intent. Residents may have possessed counterfeit currency and they were not aware. 

“Let’s say a gas station clerk calls us and says this individual came in and paid with $20. We will respond, we won’t put handcuffs on the individual and treat them like a criminal, because just as I’ve seen, or all of us have seen legitimate counterfeiters, there are people who have come into possession of this bill by accident,” Weisengerger said. “In those situations there’s no criminal intent there, so we seize the bill, we get it off the street.” 

Eric Caldwell, a manager at Hangar 9, a bar located on South Illinois Avenue, said customers have also attempted to pay with counterfeit bills on several occasions at this location. 

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“The first time that I’d dealt with it, it was very blatantly obvious. It was $20, the border was too big, it didn’t have the correct person on there and there was even some Russian lettering on there,” Caldwell said. “The thing we do when we find out that somebody is using fake money, is we keep the money then we kick them out.” 

Caldwell said this location also hasn’t contacted the authorities when customers attempted to pay with counterfeit bills. This location is typically busy so the employees don’t have time to check all of the cash that they come into contact with. 

“All we do is keep it, we don’t give it back to them because we don’t want them to go down the road to some other business and try to do the same thing. And then we kick them out for trying to use fake money on us,” Caldwell said. 

Paola Godinez, a manager at Don Taco, a restaurant located on East Grand Avenue, said this location has experienced several instances where counterfeit currency has been used.

“It’s happened on more than one occasion, for people coming into the store and giving us fake bills. The other managers let me know, we looked at the cameras and we could see the person that left. We didn’t realize that the bill was fake until they had already gone. So we tried to get all of our employees trained so that doesn’t happen again, but unfortunately it has happened a few times,” Godinez. 

Godinez said the employees should be checking the bills on a consistent basis to ensure that they’re real and not counterfeited. 

“They’ve gotten us a few times, we just need to keep trying to get better at checking them and training our people. We tell them that if they’re not comfortable checking a big bill to let the managers know, and we also use the pen,” Godinez said. 

Contacting the authorities is also a solution if a customer attempts to pay with counterfeit bills, but some business owners feel like it would be more difficult to track the culprits so they don’t file a claim. Godinez said it may be difficult to catch the people using counterfeit bills, so they never filed a claim with the authorities. 

“No we didn’t. With the one in the hotel, there was no way we were going to find out who it was. It could have been somebody’s friend in that hotel, so we never call the police on anything like that. And because we feel like nothing is going to be done, and I think it’s really hard to catch them. If you caught them, they could say that they didn’t know,” Godinez said.

Courtney Alexander can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at ___Courtney_alex23______. 

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