04.06.15

SCHUMER: NEW NUMBERS SHOW COUNTERFEIT MONEY HAS BECOME AN EPIDEMIC IN SYRACUSE; MANY LOCAL STORES HAVE SUFFERED IN THE LAST MONTH & ARE LEFT HIGH AND DRY WHEN THEY GO TO DEPOSIT FAKE BILLS – SCHUMER URGES SECRET SERVICE TO STEP UP EFFORTS TO COMBAT COUNTERFEIT BILLS & PROVIDE RESOURCES TO HELP LOCAL SYRACUSE RETAILERS IDENTIFY FAKE CURRENCY

Syracuse Authorities Have Identified Approximately $100,000 of Counterfeit Money Currently In Circulation in Syracuse Area, But This Amount Likely Only Scratches The Surface; Hundreds of Thousands More Could Be Exchanging Hands Without Consumers or Retailers Knowing – Local Shop Owners & Residents Have Little Recourse When They Try To Deposit Fake Currency

 

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: With Multiple Versions of $100 Bill Circulating, Local Businesses Need Help Knowing What’s Real & What’s Fake

Today, outside Byrne Dairy in Camillus, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Secret Service to step up its efforts to combat the uptick in counterfeit money circulating in the Syracuse region – particularly fake $100 bills. Schumer said that over the last year, according to the Syracuse Police Department, approximately $100,000 in counterfeit money has been identified in the Syracuse region, which means it is likely there are hundreds of thousands of dollars more in circulation that have gone undetected. In the last month alone, ten stores in the Syracuse area have reported counterfeit transactions. Schumer noted that many scammers have used a method of injecting smaller amounts of faux cash along with the recent introduction of a new $100 bill – and retailers’ lack of knowledge of this bill – to fly under the radar. Moreover, many of the recent counterfeit instances have involved fake $100 notes. 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 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 at an all-time high in the Syracuse area and multiple versions of the $100 bill circulating, local businesses need assistance understanding what’s real and what’s fake, and the Secret Service needs to collaborate more closely with local law enforcement to get to the bottom of who is producing this fake currency. Simply put, the Secret Service needs to step up their efforts in the Syracuse area,” said Schumer. “With approximately $100,000 worth of counterfeit bills seized in Syracuse in the last year, who’s to know how many more hundreds of thousands of dollars of fake currency is making its way from the cash register to your pocket? Businesses are 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 hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills circulating through the Syracuse 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 Syracuse Police Department, the prevalence of counterfeit money has spiked over the last year, and particularly over the past month. The Syracuse Police Department has seized approximately $100,000 in fake bills in the last year alone. And according to the Syracuse Police Department, just in the last 30 days at least ten stores have been victims. Counterfeit currency has reached a level that Syracuse police have never seen before. Schumer explained that the problem has become particularly acute since the introduction of the new $100 bill in October 2013. Because the new $100 note looks different from most other bills, and because many local business owners are used to dealing in smaller monetary amounts and are therefore understandably unfamiliar with it, Schumer said it can be very difficult to detect a counterfeit bill in the midst of a transaction. In addition to the introduction of this new $100 bill, there are now three styles of the note currently in circulation, making it even more difficult for business owners to tell what is real and what is fake. Schumer noted that while most counterfeiting takes place with smaller $20 bills, many scammers have used the introduction of this new $100 bill – and retailers’ lack of knowledge of it – to their advantage; many of the recent counterfeit instances have involved fake $100 notes.

On the heels of this uptick in counterfeit currency in the Syracuse area, Schumer is calling on the Secret Service, the agency responsible for investigating and tracking counterfeit money, to ramp up its efforts in Central New York. Schumer said that while the Secret Service is aware of some counterfeit activity in the Syracuse area, and has already begun some investigations, 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 there are currently less than a handful of Secret Service agents on the ground in Syracuse, and local businesses require more help in the face of this alarming counterfeit trend.

 

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 Syracuse area 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 local retailers who have been the victims of counterfeit transactions and local law enforcement.

 

“The uptick in counterfeit cash seen across the region is a problem for businesses and consumers across the region,” said Rob Simpson, CEO of Centerstate CEO. “When a business of any size takes in counterfeit cash it can be more than a pain, it can really impact their bottom line. For larger businesses, a lot of capital goes into security measures to combat the problem and many smaller businesses just lose out altogether. Senator Schumer’s ask of the Secret Service is both timely and appropriate. Hopefully, it will end 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. This recent trend has targeted all types of businesses, from big businesses like Wegman’s, to mom-and-pop shops, and even to Syracuse icons like Dinosaur BBQ.

 

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.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer letter to the Secretary of Treasury and Director of the Secret Service appears below:

 

Dear Director Clancy:

 

I write today with great urgency as it relates to the spread of counterfeit money, specifically $100 bills, circulating across Syracuse and Onondaga County. Of great concern is my understanding that the uptick of counterfeit money began its rise about three years ago and unfortunately many more unsuspecting businesses have likely been impacted in total. However, what is known is that the last year has seen about $100,000 in counterfeit funds actually recovered across the Syracuse area, according to local law enforcement.

 

The Secret Service,  in cooperation with local police departments, has been a vital player in recovering many of these funds. And though the local the Syracuse resident office has been a helpful partner, working with local officials, I am specifically requesting that the Secret Service increase its efforts to address this persistent problem that seems to have been percolating for the last few years with no real end in sight.

 

In the last thirty days alone, ten businesses have reportedly been victims of the Syracuse counterfeit scheme. I am concerned that because this counterfeit operation infuses just a few thousand into the local economy each month, prosecutorial guidelines which oftentimes require larger loss totals may hinder the ability of the Secret Service from devoting additional resources and pursuing a case against the offenders, even though this is the biggest spike in counterfeit money Syracuse has seen. Nonetheless, I am requesting the Secret Service's resources be expanded, as I believe that this counterfeit operation likely extends beyond Syracuse.

 

The counterfeit operation has burnt many businesses. Wegmans is a good example of how difficult it can be for smaller Syracuse area businesses to actually recognize these faux $100 bills that are in circulation. Wegmans has stated that they are only able to identify twenty-five percent of the counterfeit funds passed at its local stores. They have significant experience with the identification process and have more security resources than many of the smaller businesses that have been hit in the past. This is proof positive that there is a notable level of sophistication to this suspected operation and justifies allocating more resources to Syracuse as soon as possible.

 

Again, I am hopeful your agency will increase its efforts to combat the growing trend of counterfeit money across Syracuse. With the local police departments sending out alerts, and over $100,000 being identified- likely just a scratch of the actual amount in circulation--local businesses are both being victimized or wondering if they'll be hit next. My hope is that we can nip this situation in the bud before more businesses are caught in this web of deceit.

 

I look forward to working with your agency to combat the spread of counterfeit money across Syracuse and invite you to contact my Regional Director at (315) 423-5471 should you have any questions regarding this request or need more information from local businesses and local law enforcement.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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