The U.S. Secret Service has joined local police in searching for two men who allegedly spent a couple days in the area last week, leaving behind thousands of dollars in counterfeit cash.
Boardman police said suspects targeted the two Giant Eagle supermarkets in town a half dozen times over a two-day period late last week, allegedly using counterfeit cash to buy Western Union money orders.
“The amounts will range. $3,000 for a money order and what they would do is they would pay with these counterfeit $100 bills,” said Boardman Police Det. Ben Switka.
According to reports, nearly $10,000 in phony money was passed at the Boardman stores, and police said similar incidents were also reported during that same time period last Friday and Saturday at drug and grocery stores in Austintown and Canfield.
Police said the bills used looked very authentic.
“The serial number were in non-sequential order,” said Switka. “It wasn’t like they just reprinted the same bill and had the same number on it. They passed the counterfeit pen test.”
Police said the store at Route 224 and West Boulevard reportedly lost $7,000 before the alleged scheme was uncovered. Managers put out an alert to other stores, which may have prevented even more of the counterfeit bills from being passed.
The store’s security camera footage captured the suspect purchasing the $3,000 money order about 9 p.m. Friday. The store manager said all money order purchases of more than $3,000 require identification and the suspect presented a New York state I.D.
The manager said the same suspect returned about 11 a.m. Saturday and purchased a $2,000 money order through Western Union. One hour earlier, a second man purchased a $3,000 money order, according to a police report. Both men walked through the parking lot toward Get Go out of the view of the security cameras, so it is unknown if they got into a car.
The two men purchased a $950 money order and a $2,000 money order from the Doral Drive Giant Eagle about 8 p.m. Friday. The second suspect attempted to purchase another $3,000 money order about noon on Saturday, but was turned away because the West Boulevard store already had called to warn them about the counterfeit bills, the police report states.
Detectives said store owners and managers often need to rely on their own discretion.
“If you think you’re gonna take a loss because of these bills, you could always turn them away,” said Switka.
For more information on how to detect counterfeit currency and what to do if discovered, click here.