ABC see increases of counterfeit bills

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Terry Osborne, general manager of the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC system, said Wednesday that the problem with counterfeit bills has become epidemic in the system’s seven stores.
During the monthly meeting of the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board, Osborne showed counterfeit bills that customers have attempted to pass.
Board members marveled at the authenticity of some of the bills. Osborne noted that his employees have thus far been successful in recognizing the fake bills, but said that in larger ABC systems elsewhere in the state, counterfeit $50 and $100 bills have been successfully spent.
“You have one passed, you can really take a hit on it,” Osborne said.
He said today’s color printers make the ability to produce counterfeit bills much easier than in the past. As Osborne noted, “Even college students are doing it.”
He said employees who work full time in the ABC system’s stores have in recent weeks undergone training in means of recognizing counterfeit bills. Osborne said many of the system’s part-time workers have also taken the training.
He said the texture of the counterfeit bills is one giveaway that they’re not real. Counterfeit-detecting pens will also alert cashiers to the fact that the money is fake.
Board members suggested to Osborne that the system’s employees start checking with those pens bills as small as $5.
“We’re even seeing ones now, which is really bizarre,” Osborne said of the denominations that counterfeiters are producing.
Board member Marny Hendrick questioned how anyone could make money counterfeiting a $1 bill.
“It doesn’t look like it’d be profitable,” he said, though someone joked that those who produce counterfeit bills aren’t always the sharpest tacks in the drawer.
The increase in counterfeit bills, board members agreed, likely stems from the economic downturn.
Osborne was asked if ABC employees are authorized to attempt to detain those who try to pass counterfeit bills. No, he said, all they’re authorized to do is immediately call law enforcement officers.
Osborne said counterfeit bills aren’t the only problems involving theft affecting local ABC stores. He said as part of gang initiations, teens sometimes sprint into an ABC store, grab a bottle of liquor, then turn and run from the building.
Apprehending them is virtually impossible, Osborne said. He said that in the past week, gang members have stolen twice from stores in the Rowan/Kannapolis system. It happened most recently, Osborne said, the other night at the store at the Ketner Center.
“That’s part of their initiation,” he said.
In a related matter, Osborne reported that sales were down in the past month at local ABC stores. The trend is the same, he said, at stores across the state, noting that sales in Albemarle were down 10.85 percent, down 16.13 percent in Lexington and down 15.99 percent in Mooresville from the same period a year ago.
Osborne blamed the economy for the decline.