Police say the first counterfeit $20 bill surfaced at the beginning of the month at an area grocery store, and within the next couple weeks, almost four dozen phony bills were turned in to area law enforcement.
Detective Kevin Farley says the fake bills were used mainly at area fast food and convienience stores. The suspects would go into the businesses and either make a small purchase or ask clerks for change for the $20 counterfeits. It was some clerks who led police to suspects.
"At two separate businesses in Eau Claire where people were attempting to pass counterfeit bills, the clerks recognized the people passing them," says Farley.
Seven people have been arrested. Police say 22 year old James Hayes from Rockford, IL printed the bills at a Chippewa Falls home where he was staying. "His initial reason was another gentleman arrested, Richard Leuck, apparently hired him to print the money for the purpose of making a drug transaction," says Farley.
While executing search warrants for homes in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, police also found marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drug paraphernalia.
Some counterfeits could still be in circulation. Police describe the bills as 2004 $20 bills, thicker and more yellow than authentic bills. They are also missing the mylar strip and color changing ink in the corner. The serial number on the bills is EE49299484C or EF 90369784C. If you believe you have one, bring it to law enforcement.