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.
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."
Features that can be found on legitimate U.S. currency since the 1996 series include:
Information from U.S. Department of Treasury website