University Police recovered at least $480 in counterfeit bills from eight locations in the Marvin Center last weekend. Marvin Center officials said cashiers have been extra vigilant this week to spot fake currency.
Aramark employees called UPD Friday night after they noticed one of the $20 bills in a register looked “suspicious.” The bill was later deemed counterfeit. UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said the department is currently working with the Secret Service, which handles counterfeit investigations for the Treasury Department.
UPD is reviewing Marvin Center surveillance tapes at times when officials suspect the counterfeit bills were passed to cashiers.
Other registers in J Street held more counterfeit notes. On Saturday, GW Bookstore officials found two fraudulent $20 bills from Friday transactions, bringing the total to $380. A fake $100 bill was later found in the Marvin Center.
Metropolitan Police took the bills and handed them over to the Secret Service, Stafford said.
Employees found counterfeit bills in seven food venues, including Burger King, Jamba Juice and Pan Geos, said Derrick Brown, a supervisor at Burger King.
Brown said he was tending the cash register when the fraudulent bills were used on Friday.
“I received two counterfeit $20 bills,” Brown said, who was the only person to run the register that day. “The guy must have come here between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.”
Officials distributed markers, which identify counterfeit bills by color-changing ink, to cashiers in the Marvin Center Monday in response to the phony notes, said Mike Brown, associate director of the Marvin Center.
“I have never seen something like this,” said Brown, who has worked for the Marvin Center for the past 13 years.
Bookstore Manager Pat Lee said store employees are trained to spot counterfeit bills. She said the store has security cameras, however, officials are unsure of the exact time the transaction or transactions involving the fraudulent bills took place.
“The staff is well aware of the existence of these counterfeit bills,” said Lee, who has never seen such a case in her two years at GW. “We’re going to be much more vigilant.”
Senior Terry Unger, who works at the bowling alley in the Hippodrome, said employees were told to check $20 and $50 bills.
Many Aramark employees at J Street said they were aware that counterfeit bills were circulating.
“We check the serial numbers on any bill that we suspect to be counterfeit because all the serial numbers (on the counterfeit bills) are the same,” said Ben and Jerry’s employee and junior Daniel Greenspan.
“We deal mainly with GWorld cards so the cash that comes in is thoroughly checked.”
Local businesses expressed concerns about further counterfeit activity.
“After hearing about it I have to be more careful,” said Kyeong Kim, manager at DJ’s Fastbreak. “I’m concerned for my business.”
According to statistics released by the Secret Service’s Counterfeit Division, roughly $48 million in fraudulent bills were put into circulation last year, up sharply from $30 million in 1996.
Statistics indicate that accessible technology like color photocopiers, high-quality computer printers and scanners are largely to blame for the dramatic increase. In the last five years, the amount of counterfeit bills made on desktop printers has risen from about 3 percent to 39 percent.
Although paper currency was redesigned in 1996 to combat counterfeiting, at least $47.5 million in counterfeit money entered U.S. circulation last year, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Bureau officials said they plan to introduce newly designed $20, $50 and $100 notes next fall.
-Alex Kingsbury contributed to this report.