Detective Lt. Eddie Garcia of the Beeville Police Department said local investigators were first to begin investigating the crime.
Then, on Jan. 14, someone tried to pay for less than $10 worth of merchandise at the Bee County Co-op in Tynan with a $100 bill.
A clerk at the store became suspicious and refused to take the bill.
However, Mathis Police Chief Gerald Arismendez said the suspects in that incident apparently drove to the McDonalds Restaurant at 10539 N. State Highway 359 in that city and was able to pass the same bill.
Arismendez said the clerk who took the bill became suspicious and was able to write down a license number.
Mathis police tracked down the license number to a residence in Tynan and officers arrived at the address just as suspects were reportedly burning computer printers and a number of bogus bills.
The chief said two men, 32-year-old Christopher Brian Martinez and 33-year-old Andres “Andy” Tamez, were taken into custody shortly after the incident.
Both men were charged with forgery. Martinez is in custody at the San Patricio County Jail with no bond. He was on parole at the time of his arrest.
Tamez also is in custody there with a $30,000 bond. Arismendez said both men are cousins. Tamez was living with his father in Mathis and Martinez was paroled to his grandmother’s residence in Tynan.
Arismendez said U.S. Secret Service Agent Dan Morales traveled to Mathis from San Antonio and the two officers went to Corpus Christi Monday to obtain federal arrest warrants for the suspects.
They now face federal charges of production of counterfeit money.
One BPD officer said as many as seven or eight bogus bills turned up at businesses in Beeville this week. Several of the phony bills apparently were taken by businesses Monday.
In one case, a clerk at a local motel was able to provide police with a license number and a description of a vehicle. A traffic stop conducted seconds after the call went out ended in one arrest and officers were told that another suspect might still be in the motel room.
Two suspects were arrested in connection with that incident. They were identified as 46-year-old Caterino Briseno and 36-year-old Kelly Saldana.
Both suspects were charged with forgery, passing.
Arismendez, Garcia and Detective Sgt. Art Gamez all indicated that they expected an agent with the U.S. Secret Service to come to the Coastal Bend to serve federal arrest warrants on the suspects.
Arismendez said he believes the counterfeiters were using a computer equipped with a scanner and several printers to produce the bills.
Garcia said the suspects were distressing the bills to make them look used and prevent suspicion on the part of cashiers.
The incidents still are under investigation. More charges could be filed in coming days.
Police are asking that cashiers in businesses keep a sharp eye out for anything that looks like it could be a counterfeit bill.
Garcia said officers have received bills in different denominations, including $100 bills, $20s and fives.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.