Detective Sgt. Art Gamez of the Beeville Police Department recommended that employees who handle cash at all area businesses use their eyes to determine if a bill is real or bogus.
He said the special pens that help to identify funny money do not always work the way they should.
“People who handle money all day know what money looks like,” he said. They should be able to recognize bogus bills just by giving them a close look.
If cashiers are not sure they can identify a phony bill, they only need to spend a few minutes looking at the real thing to learn what to look for when handling a bogus bill.
Gamez said BPD investigators first learned that counterfeit money was being circulated in the area. Shortly after one investigator received a tip concerning the situation, managers at local businesses started reporting that they were finding the bills in their cash registers.
The denominations of the bills can be almost anything from $100 to $20 and even $5. Some of the computer printer-generated bills are better quality than others.
However, all the bills have flaws similar to those found on other phony bills.
Those include a difference in ink quality, especially in some of the gold inks that appear on the faces of larger bills.
In legal bills, those inks have a metallic shine to them that is lacking in the copies.
Also, details in the background printing on the bills will be fuzzier on the bogus money. And anti-counterfeit lines in the new $100 bills are solid through the entire bill. Those lines are broken on the bogus money.
Cashiers also should look for holographs and watermarks on the bills. The counterfeiters are not able to duplicate those features.
Gamez said several agents from the U.S. Secret Service have visited law enforcement agencies in the area during the investigation. Their probe into the situation has led them from Mathis to Tynan, where a raid on a residence turned up burned computer printers and some partially-burned counterfeit bills.
Since then, federal agents have looked into cases involving counterfeit bills in Alice and back in Beeville.
Federal warrants have been obtained in several cases.
Detectives believe most of the bills have been circulated among area drug users.
Gamez said that BPD officers accompanied federal agents and members of the Mathis Police Department during a raid on a residence last month when the burned printers and counterfeit bills were discovered.
Mathis Police Chief Gerald Arismendez reported this week that two men, 32-year-old Christopher Brian Martinez and 33-year-old Andres “Andy” Tamez, were arrested in the Tynan raid.
Arismendez said the suspects are cousins, and at least one of them has ties to a street gang.
Tamez has been living in Mathis, and Martinez was living in Tynan at the time of the raid.
Most of the suspects arrested so far have been charged by local authorities for forgery. Secret Service agents have been obtaining federal warrants on the suspects for producing counterfeit money.
Gamez, BPD and other investigators believe there are more counterfeit bills circulating in the area. They are encouraging anyone who finds a suspicious bill to call the nearest law enforcement agency and provide authorities with as much information as possible regarding the identity of any suspects.
That would include a description of the person attempting to pass the bill, a description of any vehicles the suspect may be in and a license number.
Investigators believe it may be a while before all the bogus bills have been located and taken out of circulation.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.