2008-01-09 / Front Page

Bogus $20 bills 'hit the street'

Local authorities have arrested two Blakely men in connection with counterfeit $20 bills which began surfacing around Blakely last week.

After the bogus bills began showing up at several businesses and at least one government office last week, investigation led to the arrest of James "Mike" Masters, 18, and Robert Gualtney, 22, Friday afternoon. Both suspects also face misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges after marijuana was recovered in the course of the counterfeiting investigation.

While it is believed several persons passed the bogus bills, Masters and Gualtney are believed responsible for the production and original distribution of the counterfeit bills and have been charged with 2nd degree forgery.

Investigators stated it appears that the "funny money" literally "hit the streets" when the two rode through North Church Street some time New Year's Eve and threw the bills out the sunroof of Master's vehicle. The bills were picked up by a number of people and have since been used at several locations.

Authorities remind people it is illegal to possess counterfeit money. The bills in question are not high quality and easily determined to be counterfeit after brief examination. Combined with the fact they were thrown out of a vehicle, it doesn't take a lot of sense to know they are not real.

Authorities suspect that only a small percentage of the fake bills have surfaced and caution local merchants to remain on the lookout for them.

In addition, anyone who may have picked up some of the fake bills or come across them some other way is urged to contact authorities.

Authorities are not interested in prosecuting anyone who merely picked up the money or anyone who may have received the money from someone else and, until now, may not have realized the money was fake. However, anyone who is found to pass the money knowing it to be counterfeit could be subject to arrest.

All of the fake $20 bills that have been recovered so far have the same serial numbers as the bogus bill pictured on this page (GK01436787 A).

For more information about how to identify counterfeit money, see the sidebar story below or visit http://www.money factory.gov/.

According to a recent article in the Miller County Liberal, a number of counterfeit $100 bills surfaced several weeks ago in the Colquitt area.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact authorities at the Early County Sheriff's Department at 723-3577 or 723- 3158.

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