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Counterfeit $100s Popping Up at Fair

TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 40 fake $100 bills have turned up at the Orange County Fair at a time when the federal government is introducing currency that is supposed to be harder to counterfeit.

The fake bills were found in some admission receipts and at several concession stands, fair spokeswoman Jill Lloyd said.

Fair officials have responded by installing ultraviolet scanning devices at all admission windows.

“Everyone here is on alert,” Lloyd said.

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Last Thursday, banking authorities alerted the fair after finding three fake $100 bills, Lloyd said.

Then on Sunday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department confiscated several counterfeit $100 notes from a man who tried to pay with them at a game booth. Officers questioned the man but did not arrest him, although his case is being investigated, Lt. Hector Rivera said.

Two more fake $100 bills were found Tuesday night in the carnival area receipts, Lloyd said. Much of the fake money has already been turned over to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting.

The fake bills found at the fair are of average to slightly above-average quality, said Robert Brenner, in charge of the Santa Ana Secret Service office. He said the notes’ paper was low-quality and that the printing was smeared in places.

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To prevent counterfeiting, the U.S. Treasury in 1996 began circulating redesigned $100 bills.

The notes have several new security features, including an enlarged, off-center portrait of Ben Franklin, an embedded polymer thread that turns red under ultraviolet light, color-shifting ink and a special watermark.

Most of the fake $100 bills found at the fair were of the 1996 version, Brenner said. It was unlikely the notes were coming from the same person because they had differing characteristics, he said.

Brenner said shopping malls are usually counterfeiters’ No. 1 target in Orange County and the Secret Service is recovering about $50,000 in counterfeit money across the county each week.

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Brenner said the main reasons counterfeiters target Orange County is that there is a large number of cash transactions and there is a substantial transient population.

He said people should compare bills to make sure they are not fake.


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