Small businesses throughout Long Beach are taking a big step in combatting counterfeit bills this month, upon receiving alerts that a few shops reported fake currency circulating among the business districts.
The trend began two weeks ago when two businesses in Long Beach’s Retro Row on 4th Street took in counterfeit $100 bills from a female described as thin, white and fair-skinned with light brown hair. Belmont Shore businesses Jenny G Boutique and Subject Clothing were hit with additional counterfeit $100 bills on Feb. 16, however, with these encounters, the subject was caught on surveillance camera.
Dede Rossi, executive director of the Belmont Shore Business Association (BSBA), said detectives are still investigating the situations and that the BSBA has not heard anything regarding an arrest. “I’m trying to encourage [businesses] to not take them and to ask for another form of payment,” she said. “If they’re suspicious, police have suggested calling 9-1-1.”
Rossi also encourages businesses to no longer use pens to verify currency, but to purchase fraud-fighter machines. The $100 devices allow bills to be placed under a light to detect if they are fraudulent or not. In addition, the device verifies identification, debit and credit cards.
Long Beach Police Department Commander Michael Beckman informed business owners in an email Feb. 18 that the attempted passing of forged currency is considered a high-priority call. An officer would be dispatched immediately if anyone is presented with what is believed to be a counterfeit bill.
Although the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA) has yet to report any counterfeit currency, the association has sent emails out to their businesses informing them of the various instances with fraudulent activity or burglaries and providing them with safety tips from the police department.
BKBIA Project Manager Krista Leaders said it’s been over a year since the area had an incident related to counterfeit bills. “We just want to give all the businesses a heads up on what they can do to be proactive,” she said.
Under California Penal Code 470, forgery can be charged under a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted under misdemeanor forgery, criminals face a maximum county jail sentence of one year. Felony charges equate to a sentencing of 16 months or two to three years in California State Prison. Both cases require paying fines, restitution to any victims and/or participation in community service.