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Watertown Authorities Have Identified Thousands of Dollars’ Worth of Counterfeit Money Circulating in The Watertown Area, But This Amount Likely Only Scratches The Surface 

Schumer Calls On Secret Service To Enhance Coordination With Local Law Enforcement, Identify Potential Counterfeit Hot Spots & Educate Local Businesses With Ways To Identify Counterfeit Money 

Schumer: Local Businesses Need Help Knowing What’s Real & What’s Fake

At The Mustard Seed in Watertown, a local business and victim of a counterfeit money scheme, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Secret Service to step up its efforts to combat the uptick in counterfeit money circulating in the Watertown area. Schumer said that over the last four years, according to the Watertown Police Department, thousands of dollars in counterfeit money has been identified in Watertown area, which means it is likely there are thousands of dollars more in circulation that have gone undetected. Recently, multiple stores in the Watertown area have reported counterfeit transactions. Schumer said that fake bills are a serious problem for local shop owners, since they have little to no recourse for recouping the money they are owed. Schumer therefore urged the Secret Service to step up its efforts and work with local law enforcement to get to the bottom of the proliferation of fake currency and to supply the resources local retailers need to identify fake bills.

“With counterfeiting on the rise in the Watertown area, local businesses need assistance understanding what’s real and what’s fake. Simply put, the Secret Service needs to collaborate more closely with local law enforcement to get to the bottom of who is producing this fake currency and step up its efforts in the Watertown area,” said Schumer. “With thousands of dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills seized in Watertown in over the last several years, who’s to know how many more of thousands of dollars of fake currency is making its way from the cash register to your pocket? Businesses are not always unequipped to identify these fake bills, and they are the ones facing a hit to their bottom line that they can ill-afford. The feds must provide resources and training for local retailers to help them identify fake bills, and we must root this counterfeit currency out at its source.”

Schumer explained that counterfeit currency is often hard to detect because it can exchange hands multiple times – and among completely innocent people – for a long time before it comes to the attention of local law enforcement. For this reason, Schumer said it is likely that there are thousands of dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills circulating through the Watertown economy right now, and that many local businesses may not even realize yet that they are victims. Schumer said this situation is precarious for businesses, particularly for local, small businesses, whose owners often do not learn they have been holding onto bad bills until they are at the bank and having difficulty depositing the money. What’s more, Schumer said, is there is little to no recourse for businesses that fall victim to counterfeit transactions. Schumer said this means a local business owner could only learn once they have brought a weeks’ worth of sales to the bank that they are holding onto worthless, fake paper notes, and have no way of recouping losses that are no fault of their own.

Schumer said, according to the Watertown Police Department, the prevalence of counterfeit money has been climbing over the last several years: with $350 being reported in 2012 to $755 in 2014. This number has already grown to $870 in 2015, representing over a 144% increase. Counterfeit cases alone have grown over 87%, from 8 in 2012 to 15 in 2015. Particularly, Watertown Police have witnessed an uptick in $50 bills reported, from none in 2012 to 11 so far this year. Watertown Police says this data does not take into account any cases involving counterfeit money that may be listed as fraud or forgery.

On the heels of this uptick in counterfeit currency in the Watertown area, Schumer is calling on the Secret Service, the agency responsible for investigating and tracking counterfeit money, to ramp up its efforts in Watertown and Jefferson County. Schumer said that while the Secret Service is aware of some counterfeit activity in the area, it must increase its coordination with local law enforcement and get to the bottom of where the counterfeit money is emanating from. Schumer said that local businesses require more help in the face of this alarming counterfeit trend. This recent trend has targeted all types of businesses, including local businesses like The Mustard Seed in Watertown. The family owned and operated natural food market has fallen victim to fake money on two separate occasions this year, each time receiving a fake $50 bill. It was not until after the phony bill was collected that the owners realized it was fake, leaving them with a loss of profit. 

Several other instances of counterfeit currency have recently been reported in the Watertown area. Back in March, a man was arrested for using a counterfeit $50 bill to pay for items at the Nice N Easy on 430 Factory St in Watertown. A month later, several counterfeit $100 bills were being investigated after they were found circulating at the Pizza Hut and Walmart in Evans Mills and the Community Bank in West Carthage. Last week, three counterfeit $20 bills were discovered within hours of each other at a local McDonald’s on 924 Arsenal St. Right next door in the Carthage area, another three instances were reported last week. Deposits at two separate Community Banks and The Carthage Market in West Carthage also reported receiving fake bills. Law enforcement has also reported phony money has passed through Ronson’s Gold Star Liquors, Applebee's and Burger King all located on Arsenal Street in Watertown.

Therefore, Schumer is urging the Secret Service to bring in more personnel, collaborate more proactively with local law enforcement and make sure that all lines of communication are open across the region, state and country to get to the bottom of who is producing these fake currency notes. Schumer said that local law enforcement authorities need to have better coordination with the Secret Service in order to identify how to stop this counterfeiting from undermining local businesses, and that the Secret Service needs to do more to educate local business owners about how to spot these fake bills. Schumer said that increasing Secret Service resources and personnel in the region to combat this illegal counterfeiting would have a significant impact on small, local businesses, where hundreds of dollars makes a big difference.

Schumer was joined by the owner of The Mustard Seed Natural Market Scott Skinner, who has fallen victim to a counterfeit money scheme, Carthage Police Chief Reginald Huber, Detective Lieutenant Joe Donoghue from Watertown Police Department, Sheriff Colleen O'Neill from Jefferson County, and Mayor of Watertown Jeffrey Graham and Mayor of West Carthage Scott Burto.

“Being left holding fake currency is a concern for The Mustard Seed Market and Café. As a business continuing to grow, any profit lost due to fake transactions not only puts you at an immediate loss but also creates a continuous ripple effect.  Costing us both products and resources lost down the road,” said Ryan Skinner, whose family owns The Mustard Seed Natural Market and Café. “I thank Senator Schumer for his action to coordinate the efforts of law enforcement so local businesses are not left suffering the consequences of counterfeit currency.”

“We have seen an increase in counterfeit currency here in Watertown in recent years, affecting several local businesses and locally operated fast food chains,” said Detective Lt. Joseph Donoghue. “Whether this is coming from one person or a larger network, we applaud Senator Schumer’s effort to bring in additional resources to combat this trend.”

Beginning in 1999, the Secret Service began detecting highly deceptive counterfeit $100 Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) in New York City. The counterfeit bills, which are believed to have been manufactured outside of the country through off-set printing, have been circulated predominately along the I-95 corridor and eastern United States. More recently, beginning in January 2014, the enterprise allegedly established a domestic printing plant in New Jersey. According to the Secret Service, counterfeit money continues to represent a potential danger to the nation's economy and its citizens. Production methods used in counterfeiting operations have evolved over the years from the traditional method of offset printing to color copiers and, more recently, to scanners, computers and inkjet printers.

The Secret Service has noted that many of today's counterfeiters have moved from the traditional method of offset printing, which has its own set of required skills, to computer-generated counterfeiting. Today's counterfeiter is able to produce counterfeit currency with basic computer training and skills afforded by trial and error, and public education. Counterfeit passing statistics are likely to increase because of several factors: these instruments of production are more readily available, the capabilities of these machines continue to improve and the techniques are more readily understood by an increasingly larger segment of the population, including those with criminal intent.