TRAVERSE CITY — Counterfeiters beware: Don’t pass bogus bucks while a uniformed police officer stands in the checkout line.
Grand Traverse County sheriff’s deputies on Monday arrested a 50-year-old Idaho man after a Brown Lumber Company cashier alerted a Traverse City police captain to a suspicious-looking $20 bill the man used in a $1.20 nuts and bolts purchase.
Those nuts and bolts may prompt a prison jolt. The suspect faces felony charges of passing counterfeit currency and possession of methamphetamine.
Brown Lumber Company co-owner Philip Cochran said the suspect was pulling a $20 bill from his wallet but noticed city police Capt. Brian Heffner, in full uniform, approach the register.
“The guy immediately puts the bill back in his wallet,” Cochran said.
But the cashier already had change for a $20 bill ready and indirectly forced the suspect to go through with the purchase. Cochran said the cashier realized the bill felt strange and alerted Heffner, who was at the South Airport Road store to buy new shelving brackets for his office.
“The cashier goes white as a ghost and says, ‘That man paid me in fake bills,’” Heffner said.
Heffner followed the suspect along South Airport Road. He said the suspect made some maneuvers — like turning around in a gas station parking lot — that indicated he was trying to lose the police tail.
Eventually, the suspect drove into a parking lot with no outlet near South Airport Road and Garfield Avenue. Heffner performed a traffic stop and handed the case over to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless said the suspect was arrested after deputies determined he was driving without a valid license. A vehicle search turned up methamphetamine, a duffel bag with suspected counterfeit $20, $50 and $100 bills and a “full-size desk printer.”
“There’s a detective involved in it at this point because we have more follow-up,” he said. “We’ll contact the Secret Service and give them all the serial numbers off of the bills. They can easily tell us if they’ve seen that serial number on any counterfeits they’ve had.”
Fewless said the suspect drove from Twin Falls, Idaho to visit an acquaintance in Traverse City. An arraignment in 86th District Court is likely this week, he said.