BANGOR, Maine — State police are looking into an influx of counterfeit $20 bills that began surfacing in Bangor and Glenburn last week.
State police Trooper David Yankowsky said Monday that so far, police had recovered 23 of the bogus $20, or the equivalent of $460. He said the counterfeit money began showing up on Thursday and that most of the bills state police and Bangor police have recovered had been used in convenience stores and filling stations.
“They’re very good copies,” he said, adding that the bills passed a counterfeit detection pen test.
The special markers use chemical color indicators to detect trace chemicals left in the paper from the manufacturing process. Yankowsky noted, however, that the pens aren’t foolproof because they test only the chemicals contained in the paper that bills are printed on.
Though he could not be specific about the case because it is still under investigation, Yankowsky said counterfeiters have been known to wash or bleach bills of low denomination and then reprint higher denominations on the paper.
The bills that began surfacing in Greater Bangor did not, however, pass the “feel test” in that they felt stiffer than usual to the touch, he said.
Yankowsky said Monday that a suspect had been identified by an area store clerk, who recognized him. After a warrant was obtained to search that person’s residence, police found more fake $20s but not the equipment that would be used in counterfeiting.
He said the suspect was being cooperative and that police were working to track down the person or people who made the fake bills.
Yankowsky also said that the Secret Service, which has jurisdiction for investigations involving counterfeit U.S. money and securities, has been notified.
According to the Secret Service Web site, ways to distinguish whether a bill is genuine or bogus include:
• The portrait on a real bill appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. A counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.
• On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct and sharp. Counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt or broken saw-tooth points.
• The fine lines in the border of a real bill are clear and unbroken. On a counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
• Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
• Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper, which can be seen on close inspection. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacture of U.S. currency.