MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) — Store clerks are often trained to spot counterfeit currency. Using special felt markers, they’ll check to see if the money tendered is worth the paper it’s printed on.
If the marker stripe on the large denomination bill turns yellow, chances are the bill is legitimate. At least that’s what a clerk at the O’Ryan’s Marathon station in Monticello thought when she accepted a $50 bill from some men from Pennsylvania.
Problem is, the $50 bill had been counterfeited from the paper of a $5 bill.
Alex Gummo was working as night manager when the clerk brought the bill to his attention.
“It looked realistic, on the corners there was not a white mark of misprinting. The ink wasn’t runny and the colors all looked good. It really was a good fake bill,” Gummo said.
Gummo called police after being alerted by another attempt to pass the fake money at a competitor’s convenience store just a block away. Owner Sonny Sweed was working the counter at Cruiser’s Gas and Goods when the same carload of men drove up. They were attempting to purchase a 2-liter bottle of soda with one of their counterfeit $50 bills.
“It just didn’t feel right, and I can’t feel the (security) strip clearly in it,” said Sweed.
Sweed refused the bill and took down the Pennsylvania license plate number as the men sped off. Then he called Gummo at the Marathon station, who called police.
The five were arrested a short time later after near Fourth and Wright Streets in Monticello. A search of their vehicle turned up another $7,500 worth of counterfeit fifty bills. The five men, Solomon Taylor, Seidou Fofana, Goanutaye Goanue, Aldophus Karmee and Francis Kollie were all charged with one felony count of counterfeiting. All are being held in the Wright County jail.
Prosecutors said the ring was allegedly bleaching out legitimate 5s and reprinting the 50s. To further exchange the fake money for legitimate currency, they were buying expensive electronics from area retailers, only to later return the goods for cash refunds.
Rick Williamson owns the O’Ryan’s Marathon station where a clerk accepted the phony $50 bill. He’s just happy his losses weren’t any greater and his employees helped put an end to the spending spree.
“There’s a lot of small merchants who every time you take a fifty dollar bill and lose it, that’s money away from your profits,” Williamson said.