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Jenny Bartell, of Community Merchants, now checks incoming bills with a counterfeit detector pen, which runs black if the bill is fake. Bartell discovered a counterfeit $20 bill last week while counting her register. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
La Grande Police Department advises merchants to accept bills with caution
When Jenny Bartell, owner of Community Merchants, was counting money from her register last Thursday, she noticed something odd in the stack of $20 bills.
One just didn’t feel quite right.
That’s because it was a counterfeit bill, one of several found in downtown La Grande last week.
Bartell said the fake came in the day before, on Jan. 15, but she didn’t notice it until she felt it in comparison with the other bills.
“If the feeling was a little better, I wouldn’t have noticed,” she said. “It was a really good fake.”
After reviewing who came in her store at 1012 Adams Ave. Jan. 15, Bartell said she doesn’t think the customer who used the bill realized it.
“They were all my regular customers (that day),” she said. “I don’t think it was intentional.”
On Thursday, the La Grande Police Department received another report of a counterfeit $20 bill, this one from Dawn’s Delights, 1409 Adams Ave, where a man and a woman tried to use it.
“She wouldn’t take it,” said Police Chief Brian Harvey of the Dawn’s Delights owner. “She noticed immediately and talked to them about it.”
The couple denied having any knowledge that the bill was fake. Harvey said they have not been identified as suspects in the case.
Then on Friday, Harvey said, someone brought in nine counterfeit $20 bills to U.S. Bank, 1402 Adams Ave.
“We’ve got some $20 (bills) running around at the very least that people should be cautious of,” Harvey said. “We’ll probably be taking these cases together and following up with our detective.”
Though there are no definitive suspects, Harvey said there are steps business owners and employees can take to avoid being fooled by a fake bill. One of the easiest is to buy a counterfeit detector pen, an item Bartell went out and got after filing her report with police.
“It’s worth the investment to get the marker and hit every bill,” Bartell said, noting that the fake bill was a loss, however small, for her business. “If it’s real, it comes up clear or yellow.”
Chief Harvey also suggests making a mental note of the feel of the bill.
“Typically the paper quality is noticeable,” he said.
Another thing to look at is the serial numbers when dealing with multiple bills.
“Bills should all be independent,” Harvey said.