A string of instances where counterfeit bills were passed to Summit County retailers has been reported, all using fake $50 bills.
The first reported counterfeit was on December 10th of last year when four fake $50 bills were used to pay for a Christmas tree at the Park City Nursery. Then, on January 8th, another counterfeit $50 was reported at Park City Coffee Roasters.
The most recent was just this week, with Smith’s in Kimball Junction reporting four fake $50 bills from their January 11th sales.
Summit County Sheriff's Lieutenant Andrew Wright says, at the moment, there appear to be no connection between the incidents, other than them all involving $50 bills. He says counterfeit cash is extremely hard to track down.
“As you can imagine, with counterfeit money, it can be very difficult for us to investigate for a few reasons,” says Wright. “For instance, in the case of the four $50 bills that were passed at Smith’s, they didn’t realize until some time later, a day or two later, after they had been passed, that they were in fact counterfeit. For a grocery store like Smith’s that is so busy, that has hundreds, if not thousands of customers coming through every week, it would probably be quite the task for them to track down.”
Wright says smaller retailers like the nursery or coffee shop can have better luck identifying counterfeit suspects, but even then, there’s no guarantee. An unknowing customer could be passed counterfeit money at another store before it is identified, use it somewhere else, and never know it.
According to Wright, instances of counterfeit are becoming increasingly rare with the overwhelming majority of people now choosing to use credit cards or other cashless payment methods -- especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fraud involving those payment methods is also easier to investigate.
According to the United States Treasury Department, $20 and $100 bills are the most commonly counterfeit American currency. Fake $20 bills are more common in the U.S. and $100 are more frequently found abroad.
Counterfeit cases in the United States are investigated by the Secret Service. The secret service was founded to combat counterfeiting and fraud in 1865 and still carries out those duties today.
Unfortunately, given the difficulty of investigating counterfeit and the relatively small amount of money involved, Wright says the recent Summit County cases are unlikely to remain unsolved if no new evidence comes to light.
“Honestly, it’s very difficult for us to investigate these,” he says. “Typically, when it’s $50, $200, unfortunately, for that retail establishment, it’s difficult for us and the cases typically don’t go anywhere just because they’re so difficult to try to track down.”
If you have a tip regarding these cases or have other evidence of counterfeit, please contact the Summit County Sheriff’s Office at 435-615-3600.