You could name this chapter in the criminology textbook “How to pass counterfeit bills if you think everyone is stupid and you won’t ever get caught.”
Or you could rename what Brandon Hill tried to pull off last month at the Family Dollar “a crime that happened because of drugs.”
Hill’s felonious escapade began June 9, when he walked into the Bayfront Station at the western edge of Apalachicola and handed the cashier a $50. It didn’t pass under her pen undetected, and she returned it to the customer as bunco. A friend, April Hutchinson, paid the tab with a genuine Grant.
Hill decided he wouldn’t take uh-uh for an answer, and six hours later tried to purchase a prepaid phone card at the Family Dollar.
The clerk took the money, two $20s and a $10, and sold Hill the card, but manager Erika Bartley didn’t have to look long at the $10 bill’s bone white color, the absence of a strip or a watermark, the moisture spot, the light feel of it, to know that it wasn’t Shinola.
“They have to do better than that,” she joked.
“The black ink is running all over the place,” said Ronnie Jones, the detective at the sheriff’s office working the case with Brett Johnson.
Bartley quickly deactivated the phone card, prompting a return visit from Hill. Also, she didn’t return his money, and instead gave the bills to the cops.
The detectives obtained a warrant for Hill’s arrest, and he was picked up at the end of last month in Gadsden County, and charged with two counts of uttering, defined as purposely presenting a document, such as a bill or a check, that you know to be fake.
Because Hill had been turned away once at a nearby store, the detectives believe they can prove the uttering charge. “We have to prove you knowingly possessed the fake money,” said Jones.
Sheriff A.J. Smith said that while officers have reason to believe Hill created the bills on a printer he owned, since Hutchinson has turned over to them other fake bills as well as a printer, they don’t have enough evidence yet to prove a case for counterfeiting.
“This is another crime associated with drugs in our community,” said Smith. “If we didn’t have a drug problem, a lot of these crimes wouldn’t occur. It’s people associated with drugs using this to get money for drugs.”
The sheriff said that bills with the same serial numbers are, of course, an obvious giveaway, as was the look and feel. “You could tell they were really amateurish,” he said.
Jones noted that a counterfeit detection pen, which retails for as little as $1.41, is a surefire way for a clerk to detect bad money. He noted that every so often, when a business makes a cash deposit, phony bills will come up in the bank’s tally, the Secret Service is notified, and the business is out the money.
The sheriff said that in the event an employee finds they are being passed a bad bill, they should tell the customer the bill has failed their detection test.
“Do not confront them. If the person leaves, keep the bill,” said Smith. “It’s not worth somebody doing something stupid. Get a description of the car and a description of the person. That can help law enforcement identity the individual.”