Counterfeiters spread bogus bills across Federal Way

A real $50 bill. Note the color markings. - Courtesy image
A real $50 bill. Note the color markings.
— image credit: Courtesy image

Counterfeit bills are being used to do business across Federal Way.

Beginning in October, reports of subjects passing or attempting to pass counterfeit currency began showing up in the Federal Way police crime log. Since that time, multiple instances of counterfeiting have been reported to police each month. The majority of the reports list the fake cash as $50 bills. On several occasions, the bills have been used to pay for food or electronic goods.

Counterfeiting money is one of the oldest crimes in United States history, according to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting. The crime is a federal felony.

"Whoever, with intent to defraud, falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both," according to United States Code, Title 18, Section 471.

Counterfeiting incidents

In Federal Way, food venues are getting hit the hardest, according to the police log. Individuals accepting cash for other services, including electronic goods have also been targeted. Following is a sample of counterfeiting incidents reported to Federal Way police:

• At 7:07 p.m. Feb. 9 in the 34900 block of Enchanted Parkway South, a suspect attempted to pass a fake $50 to pay for food ordered by phone.

• At 3:44 p.m. Feb. 4 at 2302 S. 320th St., a witness reported a suspect attempted to pay for food with a photocopy of a $50 bill.

• At 10:54 p.m. Jan. 25 at 2109 SW 336th St., a suspect fled after trying to pass a fake $50 bill at Safeway. Prior to fleeing, the suspect was questioned about the bill.

• At 7:54 p.m. Dec. 27 at 1600 S.W. 312th St., an unknown male presented a counterfeit $10 to pay for his gasoline. An employee confiscated the money and the subject paid by other means. The employee did not believe the man knew the bill was fake.

• At 4:46 p.m. Dec. 26 at 1928 S. Commons, 13 counterfeit bills were passed at various locations at the mall.

• At 8:11 p.m. Dec. 11 at 35105 Enchanted Parkway South, four suspects dined at Puerto Vallarta. One paid for the meals with two $50 bills that were later discovered to be counterfeit.

• At 3:30 p.m. Nov. 23 in the 31600 block of Pacific Highway South, a victim reported that he sold a gaming console for $300 to unknown suspects. He later discovered the money he received for the item was counterfeit.

• At 4:13 p.m. Nov. 20 at 2201 S. Commons Way, a victim reported a suspect paid him for a gaming console, controllers and several video games with $400 in counterfeit money.

• At 3:20 a.m. Oct. 30 in the 900 block of SW 312th St., a cab driver flagged down police and reported three males left the driver's cab after they attempted to pay for the services with a $50 bill that appeared to be counterfeit.

• At 2:38 p.m. Oct. 17 at 2300 S.W. 336th St., a suspect attempted to pay for items at Kentucky Fried Chicken with a counterfeit $50 bill.

Counterfeiting is not unique to Federal Way, said Bob Kierstead, U.S. Secret Service assistant special agent in charge for the Seattle field office.

"It's a fairly regular activity from the Western Washington area," he said.

Passing the bill

Often counterfeiters try to purchase relatively inexpensive items, using a larger bill in hopes of getting genuine cash back, Kierstead, said. The suspect tests his or her luck, passing bills here and there to see which establishments will accept the bogus cash, he said. The most popular counterfeit currencies are $20 bills, followed by $100 bills, he said.

With the emergence of new technologies, counterfeiting is easier today than it was in the past, Kierstead said. Years ago, the crime usually called for a person skilled in printing, he said. Today, many counterfeiters use copy machines or ink jet printers to do their dirty work, he said.

"Now, anybody can at least try their hand at it," Kierstead said.

Detecting counterfeit currency

The United States has taken several measures to protect its currency against counterfeiting. Each bill, with the exception of the $1 bill, includes 18 security features, Kierstead said. Discoloration; blurred details in the treasury seals, border or serial number; uneven spacing in the serial number; a flat or lifeless looking portrait; and paper that does not feature tiny red and blue fibers embedded in it are signs a bill is counterfeit, according to the U.S. Secret Service Web page. The vertical security thread, located to the right of the portrait, should list a denomination equal to that found at the corners of the bill, Kierstead said. Additionally, on genuine bills, the facial depiction will feature a texture, Federal Way police Cmdr. Chris Norman said.

Learn more

For more tips on how to detect counterfeit currency, visit the United States Secret Service Web page at

Check it out

Following are 2009 counterfeiting statistics provided by the U.S. Secret Service:

• Roughly $874 billion in U.S. genuine currency is in fluctuation at any given time worldwide.

• $69.1 million in counterfeit currency was passed domestically.

• $4.3 million in counterfeit currency was passed overseas.

• $7.6 million in counterfeit currency was seized domestically before going into circulation.

• $101.2 million in counterfeit currency was seized overseas before going into circulation.

• Digital currency, that made with copiers or ink jet printers, accounts for 62 percent of domestically passed counterfeit currency.

• Approximately 3,997 arrests for counterfeiting were made domestically.

• 90 percent of domestic counterfeit arrests involve digital activity.

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