MARYLAND

Hagerstown counterfeit money being circulated at businesses, eateries

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By all appearances, a collection of $100 bills that have made their way around Hagerstown since December look like any others.

Upon closer inspection, however, the ones that the Washington County Sheriff's Office has seized are anything but legitimate.

County Sheriff's officials say they're investigating at least 12 cases of counterfeit money, including $2,000 worth of fake bills used to buy electronics and jewelry at a Hagerstown Kmart before Christmas.

"They are pretty good, and clerks aren't paying attention in busy places," Lt. Mark Knight says. "You take the money, ring out the change and off they go."

Authorities say that there have been nearly two dozen reported cases of counterfeit currency over the past few months, but it's not certain whether it's the same person or group passing the fake money in each circumstance.

Most of the counterfeit bills have been used at local chain restaurants like Bob Evans and McDonald's. In most cases, officials say they were fake $10 and $20 bills.

For many county residents, the trend is disconcerting.

"We give them a $20 and they have to go check it out," Hagerstown resident Don Jackson says. "We're honest, and they got off free and get going."

Kash Deesai, a clerk at Hagerstown's Liquor Locker, says that she and the rest of the store's employees have been told to be on the lookout.

"We don't get to know unless the bank tells us, and if the bank takes the bills, they don't get us the money back," Deesai said. "We lose."

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