By Tom Hubka
Wescom News Service
BROOKINGS A recent rash of counterfeit bills around the community have local law enforcement stepping up efforts to find the people who make and distribute fake money.
Brookings Police have logged seven separate reports of counterfeit currency in the past three weeks, most involving fake $20 bills.
Brookings Police Detective Barbara Palicki has for months been going after those who make counterfeit bills.
She said phony bills show up in the area in a cyclical pattern. For example, in the month of January this year, there were only four reports of counterfeit bills. Lately, it seems to be near the top of the cycle when fake bills flood in from several producers.
"It's just a lot of leg work for us," Palicki said. "It's trying to get the right information together. Right now we're trying to coordinate our efforts with this current rash."
As with drug dealers, Palicki and other law enforcement trying to curtail counterfeit money are after "the top tier." It's much easier to catch the person who is buying drugs, for example, than the person who is creating and selling them, Palicki said.
"We can get the people who buy," she said. "We want the people who distribute."
And some people seem to be trying their luck with bad bills at all kinds of businesses. Some of the local businesses who reported counterfeit money in the past two weeks include Chetco Federal Credit Union, Local Market, Ray's Food Place and 412 Taxi.
Carolyn Kuhn, 39, of Brookings, was sentenced to 60 days of jail Wednesday after she was charged and convicted of forgery by knowingly passing a fake $10 bill at an area Dollar Store.
Kuhn, who has battled addictions to alcohol and meth, was told each successful day in rehab would count as a day in jail by Curry County Circuit Court Judge Jesse Margolis.
While officials have long attributed some counterfeiters to drug addictions, Palicki said catching the established, patient manufacturers is the real challenge.
"There's a handful of people making these bills and many people using them," she said.
These few people may be the engine behind the rise in counterfeit bills around town, she said.
"People probably have heard how others have done it," she said. "People involved with crime share information."
The police effort has not been without progress. Palicki recently arrested three adults from the area suspected to have been working together in counterfeit money schemes.
"We do currently have several people in jail for forgery I," she said. "We have hopefully stopped that group. But we're still getting a rash of $20s."