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Police from Carnegie, Crafton, Ingram work with Secret Service to determine origin of fake bills

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Carnegie, Crafton and Ingram police say they are continuing to work with the Secret Service to determine the origin of an influx of counterfeit bills.

Counterfeit bills in denominations of $20 and $50 appeared in local businesses in the past two weeks.

Eric Zahren, special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office, which covers Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said the cases in the three communities could be related.

“We're talking about three different areas and police departments, so we can't say for sure the areas we're talking about are all one case,” he said.

He said the agency has developed suspects in these particular suburban cases, but the agency is still investigating.

Fluctuation in the number of counterfeit notes in circulation is common, he said.

“These things tend to happen in waves,” he said. “We're not in panic mode.”

Carnegie police Chief Jeffrey Kennedy said his department received five reports. He said he suspects the counterfeit bills are the work of the same person. The department is examining surveillance footage from the businesses, which include gas stations, convenience stores and discount shops.

Crafton Officer Frank Scatena said three reports there were from the Giant Eagle on Walsh Road.

One of the two reports to Ingram police were from Giant Eagle, Ingram Chief Jack Doherty said.

Zahren said he would remind people to pay attention to their money.

“Look at the currency,” he said. “Make sure you're feeling and looking at the notes you're dealing with.”

Kennedy said suspected instances of counterfeiting can be difficult to follow, as it can be hard to distinguish between suspects and victims.

“Some people are victims of circumstances,” he said. “If someone hands you a $20 bill, you can't tell if it's fake or not until you put that (counterfeit detector) pen on it.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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