A man walked into the McDonald’s at 4957 U.S. Highway 341 last Wednesday, paying for a $1.38 purchase with a $20 bill.

He walked out with an $18.62 profit.

Earlier, the same man made $10.86 when he paid for a $9.94 purchase there with yet another $20 bill.

Only afterward did a manager discover that both bills were bogus. The young cashier who accepted the bills should not feel too badly about it. It has happened numerous times in the Golden Isles lately.

A man paid with a phony $50 bill at the Winn-Dixie off of Golden Isles Parkway Feb. 5, and a scam artist passed a fake $100 bill Jan. 30 at the Pet Supplies Plus off of Scranton Road.

Both Glynn County and Brunswick police have handled a rash counterfeiting cases recently in the Golden Isles. County police have responded to at least 18 cases of counterfeiting or attempted counterfeiting since Jan. 8 of this year. Brunswick Police also have reported numerous cases of counterfeiting or attempted counterfeiting, including three reports of phony bills being passed Sunday in the city.

County and city police are jointly investigating the recent spate of counterfeiting cases, said Brian Scott, Chief of Staff of the Glynn County Police Department. Police have made one arrest on counterfeiting charges with more anticipated, he said.

The U.S. Treasury Department imbeds watermarks and other difficult-to-duplicate features into American currency to thwart counterfeiters, but the fake money still ends up in circulation, Scott said. He urges merchants in the local business community to be vigilant in scrutinizing bills, taking the simple steps to detect and prevent counterfeit money from entering the local economy. Likewise, citizens can take steps to ensure money they have is not counterfeit. Some of these steps are outlined by the U.S. Treasury at https://www.uscurrency.gov/denominations.

“Our detectives are still working this case in conjunction with Brunswick police at this time, and we anticipate more arrests,” Scott said. “The newer bills, especially the larger bills, have counterfeit security features, from strips inside to watermarks that authenticate the bills. Businesses need to examine their money and make sure the proper checks and balances are in place.”

In many of the recent cases, businesses did take those necessary steps. Crooks tried to use counterfeit $20 and $50 bills at the Parker’s convenience store at 5411 U.S. 341 on Jan. 30, but the cashier quickly recognized them as fakes. She gave police a description of the men who drove away in a Toyota Corolla after being confronted.

Similarly, an employee at a local Exxon convenience store on 5055 U.S. 341 spotted a fake $20 bill right off when a man tried to buy a can of soda with it on Jan. 31. The employee refused the sale and told the would-be scammer he was keeping the phony bill to give to police. The balding suspect drove away in a white car, the employee told police.

The McDonald’s at 4957 Old Jesup Road helped police make an arrest in one case recently. A man walked into the fast food restaurant on Jan. 28, walking out with $97 free and clear after using a fake $100 bill to pay for a couple of sandwiches, police said. He drove away in a Dodge Ram, police said. The next day, employees said the same man was thwarted when he tried to pass counterfeit money at the drive-through line. He drove away in a blue Chrysler 300 without paying for the $6.40 order, the report said.

On Jan. 31, county police arrested Richard Franklin Smith, 26, of Hortense, in connection with that case, according to reports. Smith remained Monday in the Glynn County Detention Center, held on a on total of $3,440 bond for possession of a counterfeit substance, second degree forgery, driving on a suspended license and violation of parole.

On at least two recent occasions, merchants have unwittingly given back fake money in change, according to police reports. A woman received a fake $50 in change Jan. 27 when she paid for a Taco Bell purchase with a $100 bill, she reported to police. And on Jan. 27, a man with a winning scratch-off lottery ticket worth $100 cashed it in at Tommy’s Corner, 6010 U.S. 341, receiving four legit $20 bills and one fake, police said.

Although counterfeiting appears to be on the rise in recent weeks, it is not a new problem to this area, said Glenn Kessler, Agent in Charge for the U.S. Secret Service in Savannah.

Kessler estimates nearly $2 million in counterfeit money slips into circulation annually within his jurisdiction, which stretches from Augusta to Kingsland. A talented forger with a good computer and printer system can create fake bills locally that will slip past the unsuspecting, he said.

And with Interstate 95 running through it, Glynn County is particularly attractive to counterfeiters looking to dump funny money and make a quick escape, he said.

“What you’re probably seeing in Brunswick right now is people who make counterfeit bills on their Inkjet and then pass it at local businesses,” Kessler said. “But the I-95 corridor is the worst, because of those two (Glynn County) exits are right there. You guys get killed there. There’s about $1.9 million year in counterfeit coming in our district. That’s at every bank, Wal-Mart, Target, convenience store ... You name it, they’ll try to hit it.”

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