Counterfeit bill isolated incident

Police investigate 1998 redesign passed at Kmart


Craig Police continue to investigate a case involving a counterfeit $20 bill passed at a local business, but the incident appears to be isolated, according to Craig Police Lt. John Forgay.

Kmart management reported the bill to police last week. Forgay has since confirmed it is fraudulent.

The bill is a laser-printed duplication of the 1998 redesign -- not the new $20 bill that rolled out in October.

"It's not one of the new bills, although they already have been counterfeited," Forgay said.

Amid long lines and busy holiday shoppers, it's no surprise the bill got through initially, according to Forgay, who said "most people" would accept it.

"It's really close enough it could pass," Forgay said. "I'm surprised they caught it at Kmart."

However, using an illuminated hand microscope, Forgay quickly found the bill to be lacking the sharp lines of a true Treasury note.

"The printing itself" gave it away, Forgay said.

Laser printers produce a series of dots, which can be seen under magnification.

Also, the paper was not quite right. It was obvious to Forgay, who spent time in a Secret Service training session that covered fraud, that the bill had been purposefully aged and crumpled to make it look more common.

But paper shows crisper lines than the cloth-like material out of which legitimate currency is cut.

According to Forgay, laser-printed bills have become popular as a quick way to counterfeit money without the great effort and risk acquiring the metal dies and presses that can turn out better fakes.

Forgay worked a case in the 1970s that involved burglary of a press manufacturer. Nowadays, a bill that is marginally passable -- especially to busy merchants -- can be quickly produced by laser printing.

"It's easier than trying to come up with a metal die and get it carved out to use on printing presses," Forgay said.

But new bills have features "even a good laser copy won't pick up," Forgay said.

The features include watermarks, or faint images, color-shifting ink, microprinted words, and the feature Forgay finds most authentic: the paper, which isn't just paper, but linen and cotton as well.

"The feel" of the bill gives it away many times, Forgay said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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