Counterfeit money bought online and distributed locally

Mar 22, 2019

Counterfeit money is circulating in northern Michigan, from Emmet and Charlevoix counties to Traverse City and Cadillac. Most of the bills are $100s, have Chinese writing on them and feel more like paper than money.

Captain Jim Bussell with the Traverse City Police Department says counterfeit money has shown up in northern Michigan before but the distribution has changed recently.

“These are coming through the internet, and then [are] sent to the United State from China," Bussell says.

The bills have been used at the Charlevoix Hospital, a Taco Bell, a flower shop in Traverse City and a party store in Cadillac, among other places.

"You know they're small time," says Bussell. "They'll take a $100 bill, and they'll pop into a convenience store, buy a $2 item, then get the change back. Now they have real money that they can go and spend anywhere they want."

He says Traverse City Police does not have a suspect yet but have a person of interest caught on surveillance video from the flower shop. 

Other law enforcement agencies have their eye on a couple of suspects. In Charlevoix County, Detective Travis Williams at the Sheriff's Office says they have one suspect who paid about $4 for $10,000 in fake money. 

"During a search warrant we recovered I think $8,600 of that $10,000 back," says Williams.

Williams would not say that means $1,400 fake bills are currently in circulation, saying instead the case is currently before the prosecutor.

Despite different counterfeit bills popping up around northern Michigan, law enforcement agencies agrees that there doesn't seem to be any coordinated operation out there, though Williams says something seem fishy.

“It is unusual for our agency and the surrounding county agencies to have the counterfeits that are out there," he says. "Whether it’s a trend, whether somebody told somebody who told somebody, I don’t know."

A version of this story appeared on our weekly show Points North. Listen to the entire episode here.