HAYWARD -- Police arrested a man on suspicion of counterfeiting after buying more than $8,000 in fake bills for 25 cents on the dollar during a three-month investigation that involved the U.S. Secret Service.

Police believe Rowland Butsy II, 32, of Sacramento, may have been selling up to $10,000 in fake bills a week throughout the Bay Area and don't know how long it may have been going on.

"He was too prolific, and the product was pretty good," said Lt. Roger Keener. "Hayward was definitely a target where he was selling his bills. You give him $1,000 and get $4,000, and you can buy a lot of stuff for $4,000."

Keener said the bogus bills ranged in denomination from $5 to $100, but most were $20s.

He said they may pass a cursory look but closer inspection will reveal a lack of security features.

"The microprinting on the border of the bill is pretty blurry if you compare it side by side with a real bill," Keener said. "The fine lines are not crisp."

He said the denomination thread will not show up if the bill is held to a light, and the stock feels more like something between a business card and printer paper rather than real currency.

"The bottom line is that at first appearance it looks pretty good, but the more you scrutinize it, the more you'd recognize that it wasn't a real bill," Keener said.

The operation came to light through an unrelated narcotics investigation, he said.


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Butsy has a previous arrest that involved counterfeit money. Police said they do not believe others were involved in the operation.

"To the best of our knowledge it was just him," Keener said. "We couldn't substantiate that anyone else was involved."

Keener said they did not find the equipment used to manufacture the fake bills, but they believe it was done with a computer and a scanner.

Butsy, who was arrested last Thursday, faces federal counterfeiting charges.

Keener said that people who receive counterfeit bills have little recourse after they've accepted it as real, and compared it to being the person left standing in a game of musical chairs.

"You can't go back to the store -- how do they know you they even gave it to you?" he said. "There's no way of knowing the truth. If you don't catch it right there, you lose. There are no winners, and that's why this was important to us. It's just bad."

BAD BILLS
Features that can be found on legitimate U.S. currency since the 1996 series include:
  • A watermark image of the portrait person, visible as darker and lighter areas when held up to the light.
  • Color-shifting inks used in the numeral on the lower right corner on front of the note. The ink's color changes when the note is tilted.
  • Fine line features behind the front portrait and around the historic building on the back of the note. These are difficult for copying and scanning equipment to recreate.
  • A thin thread or ribbon running through the note, included in all bills larger than the $2 denomination made since 1990. The note's denomination is printed on the thread.
    Other tips:
  • The U.S. Department of Treasury advises people who suspect they have received a counterfeit note to contact local police or call the local U.S. Secret Service Office. The San Francisco bureau can be reached at 415-744-9026. They advise handling the note as little as possible and placing it in a protective bag or envelope before turning it over to authorities.
  • There is no financial remuneration for the return of the counterfeit bill.
  • For more information about counterfeiting, go to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing website at www.moneyfactory.gov.
    Information from U.S. Department of Treasury website