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Forgery alert 

Someone on the Central Coast is forging $100 bills. At least that’s what investigators think. Local police have arrested two people for passing the counterfeit cash, but have not yet uncovered the forger’s printing equipment. Bogus $100 bills have turned up in Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo.
 
“This type of counterfeiting tends to be local,� says Secret Service

click to enlarge Forgers bleach a $5 bill and then print a $100 bill onto it, like this one found in a similar case in the Midwest. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WNDU TV NEWS CENTER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF WNDU TV NEWS CENTER
  • Forgers bleach a $5 bill and then print a $100 bill onto it, like this one found in a similar case in the Midwest.
#  Resident Agent in Charge, George Mitchell. “I would bet it is an operation out of someone’s home or apartment. Those arrested may not be the printers, just passing it.�
 
It started on April 1, when Matthew Teagarden, 24, allegedly purchased items at Kragen Auto Parts and then at the Grand Avenue 76 station with counterfeit cash. An alert 76 employee spotted the fake $100 bill and notified police. Grover Beach police found two additional phony bills on Teagarden as well as meth and drug distribution materials. Teagarden was charged with forgery, passing counterfeit money, theft, and possession of meth for sale. “We see a nexus with meth and counterfeiting; a constant connection with the two,� Mitchell says. “Counterfeiting has become a sub-operation in the meth business.�
 
Five days later, San Luis Obispo police arrested James Eskridge, 47, on suspicion of counterfeiting. Eskridge allegedly paid for a home delivered pizza with counterfeit cash. Police officers, state parole investigators, Secret Service officials and the County Narcotics Task Force discovered a fake $100 bill while conducting a parole search of Eskridge’s residence at 549 South Street. The bill’s serial number matched fake bills passed a few days earlier at Fattes Pizza, a Chevron gas station, and a Circle K convenience store. Eskridge is being held on a parole violation, without bail, at county jail.
 
Mitchell says Central Coast authorities have received reports of approximately 10 counterfeit $100 bills in the past couple of weeks. He says forgers are making phony money the high tech way. First, they bleach five-dollar bills. Then the bills are printed over with ink jet technology. “The technology is a common factor in all the collected bills,� Mitchell says. “They may be related, a common manufacturer, but we are not absolutely sure.�
 
The homemade bills feel like the real McCoy, but retain a five-dollar bill security strip and a watermark bearing a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Officials are asking businesses to be on the lookout for the counterfeit $100 bills. Cashiers can spot the forgeries by paying careful attention to whether or not the watermark and the center portrait match. Mitchell recommends comparing possible forgeries to a genuine bill of the same series and denomination.
 
“Our agents are investigating with local police,� Mitchell says. “Slowly piecing together information usually leads back to the source, or they shut down due to publicity and public awareness.�

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