By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 911 call about a fake $20 bill led to George Floyd’s deadly encounter with police. The U.S. Secret Service determined the bills were fake.

The Minneapolis Field Office investigates counterfeit money. The special agent in charge says they catch more than a million dollars in counterfeit bills in Minnesota each year. SAC Joe Scargill explains where it comes from, and how you can spot it.

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Money passes hands every day at stores and for services. Scargill says counterfeit money does too.

“Oh absolutely, absolutely, yeah,” Scargill said. “Most of what we see here in the Twin Cities area is made locally, which means it’s produced in someone’s house, in someone’s car, in someone’s basement.”

Scargill says his office spends more than half its time investigating counterfeit currency. And he says criminals have found more sophisticated ways to fake it.

“There’s techniques where I can bleach the ink off of that genuine bill and then reprint a higher denomination like a $20, a $50 or $100. Then when the cashier feels it it’s going to feel like real money, on a quick glance it’s going to look like real money,” Scargill said.

(credit: CBS)

In a recent case, surveillance cameras caught a man time after time, passing $20s, $50s, and hundreds at places like grocery stores and coffee shops.

Scargill showed WCCO some of those bills, and shared what stands out.

“The first thing is there’s no security features, and the quality would stand out,” Scargill said.

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When police arrested the guy, a printer was in his car, along with a bleached dollar bill, and another ready to print.

“Just basic, nothing fancy, run-of-the-mill printer,” Scargill said.

The man pleaded guilty to manufacturing counterfeit money, a federal felony, and was sentenced to three years in prison. Counterfeiters like him can be hard to stop because the bills are often found later.

“It gets detected when the businesses go ahead and take their money and then go ahead and make their deposit to the bank, right. And then the bank will run it through their machines and can catch it,” Scargill said.

It’s a loss for the business and potentially the customer, if they unknowingly get change that includes a fake.

“Nowadays really anyone can be a printer. And that’s why it’s so prevalent. There’s instructions on the internet,” Scargill said.

Counterfeits are also passed during person-to-person exchanges for goods bought online. A tip: Make the cash transaction at a bank where someone can authenticate the bills.

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The Secret Service also offers online resources on where to report counterfeit money, and how to spot it. Click here for that information.

Jennifer Mayerle