Tallahassee Businessman Sees Surge in Counterfeit Bills

The U.S. Secret Service’s North Florida field reports that less than one percent of the currency in circulation in Florida is counterfeit. But one Tallahassee business owner said he is preparing for an increase in the prevalence of fake bills in his store.

“This time of year, it actually starts coming in a little bit more regularly,” said Pat Sosenko, general manager of Moe’s Southwest Grill on Tennessee Street, who has received counterfeit money twice already this fall.

Sosenko attributes the surge in fake money to people’s desperation during the holiday season.

“We see it more in November, December and January,” he said. Jean Mitchell, special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s North Florida field office said this isn’t a new issue for her office.

“We do see peaks and valleys. A lot has to do with consumer spending and the economy,” said Mitchell.

According to Mitchell, the Secret Service’s primary violation is counterfeiting and they are involved in the prevention, detection and on-site investigations of the reported practice.

“Twenty dollar bills are the most common note reproduced domestically and the easiest to pass,” said Mitchell. “Internationally it’s the $100 bill.”

There are two main forms of producing counterfeit money: by traditional printing press, where higher denominations are printed on authentic, cloth money.

The second is by digitally printing images on paper, which has become more popular and is easier to detect for those who handle money directly on a regular basis.

“The most prominent method of domestic counterfeiting is a computer-generated note,” said Mitchell. “If somebody is bleaching, they probably have more skill and are spending more time at it.”

Sosenko’s Tennessee Street store received a $20 bill that was printed on paper, and a five-dollar bill just two weeks ago that was bleached, but he was unaware until he deposited the money at his bank.

Banks are required to send fake notes directly to the Secret Service, where they are investigated and logged. Agents are dispatched to do field investigations if needed.

According to Mitchell, restaurants, small grocery stores and gas stations have the highest risk of encountering counterfeit money because of the tendency of individuals to buy lower-priced items. Counterfeiters pass a fake note and take the genuine currency in return.

Mitchell said that, in Florida, larger cities are more prone to counterfeit manufacturing, although there is a large portion that comes from overseas from areas like Columbia and Peru, where the production of larger denominations is more common. Areas that encounter higher numbers of other crimes will also be areas that harbor counterfeiters.

“Jacksonville, relative to Miami, is going to be less,” said Mitchell

According to the Secret Service, Tallahassee averages about $2,300 in confiscated counterfeit money a week, a low number compared with other cities in Florida like Jacksonville, that average between $8,000 – $12,000 a week in fake notes.