Three local law enforcement agencies are looking for three suspects accused of using counterfeit money at local businesses.
During a press conference held on Wednesday, representatives from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Urbana Police Division and West Liberty Police Department called on citizens to be aware of individuals who passed counterfeit money in different places throughout the state.
Champaign County Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Rapp said that on Sunday a 2007 black Mazda four-door vehicle with an Ohio license plate number of GJP 2353 was driven to the Subway in West Liberty where a male and female entered the restaurant and gave the clerk a $100 bill. The male and female reportedly then went to the Mad River Farm Market drive-thru where they used another $100 bill, then proceeded to Huckleberry’s in Urbana where they used another $100 bill.
Rapp said law enforcement was alerted on Monday that the bills were counterfeit bills. He added the three local agencies are all active in this investigation.
“We put out information involving these suspects. We believe that it’s possibly originating from the Cincinnati area, but from our understanding and from the calls that the law enforcement agencies have been receiving this has spread across the middle section of Ohio and the southwest region of Ohio,” Rapp said. “We’re trying to identify these persons involved in this and trying to put a stop to this.”
Rapp said law enforcement believes there are probably three suspects involved in Sunday’s incidents, but they have only been able to obtain pictures of two suspects. Rapp said these two suspects have been identified as a black male and black female who spoke with a Jamaican-type accent.
Surveillance videos from the three local businesses have matched the description of the suspects.
Rapp said the suspects have tended to use counterfeit money at small businesses. Law enforcement was also informed that counterfeit money has been passed at festivals in other areas in the state.
Rapp said law enforcement received calls from Jackson, Ohio stating that counterfeit money was passed at the Jackson Apple Festival.
“We have been able to identify that the vehicle involved in this is the same vehicle from Sunday that came through Logan County and Champaign County,” Rapp said. He added law enforcement does not know if these are the same people who passed counterfeit bills on Sunday, but said the same vehicle was identified.
West Liberty Police Chief Shane Oelker said he has spoken with several businesses in West Liberty about being mindful of counterfeit money and for clerks to take their time when processing money and contact law enforcement if something does not feel right.
“We saw some last year during one of our festivals, just smaller bills,” Oelker said on the frequency of counterfeit bills being used in West Liberty. “This is the first time that I can think of where we’ve had a large bill like a $100. Typically it’s $20s is what we’ve seen and most of the time businesses take those because they’re so frequent.”
In Champaign County, Rapp said counterfeit bills have usually been in a lower amount. Rapp emphasized that this conduct not only impacts local businesses but also impacts the public.
“These persons that are going around doing this, they’re just buying minor items and then using counterfeit money,” Rapp said. “It impacts us a lot especially now between midwest Ohio and the southwestern portion of Ohio, the total is just starting to add up greatly.”
The sheriff’s office can be contacted at (937) 484-6091.
Urbana Police Officer Todd Pratt said people with information about these incidents can contact the Urbana Police Division’s crime tip hotline at (937) 652-4357. Callers can leave their name or remain anonymous.
Oelker said the West Liberty Police tipline number is (937) 465-2801 and callers can also remain anonymous if they choose to.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.