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Fake movie money hits East Texas

By Meredith Shamburger
Aug. 29, 2016 at 11:32 p.m.


Some folks call it funny money. But East Texas law enforcement agencies and banks don't see anything funny in a new counterfeit trend popping up around the area: Fake money intended for use on movie sets is being used in real life.

The money looks so similar to real currency, officials say, it can be difficult to spot if someone isn't paying attention.

"It's amazing how exact it looks to U.S. currency until you get to the top right side where it says 'For motion picture use only,'" said Ken Hartley, a security and loss prevention officer at Texas Bank and Trust.

Fake movie money can be purchased online and is designed to look as real as possible for transactions portrayed by actors in movies and on television. But the money also has several key differences from real currency, including a lack of certain markings and the words "For Motion Picture Use Only" printed in the top right corner and across the upper banner on the back of the bill.

Police around East Texas have seen several cases in which movie money has been used in transactions, including in Lufkin, Diboll and Jasper.

The Paris Police Department has warned residents about circulating fake money.

"Local businesses have been the target of passing these fake bills thus far, but attempts could be made to pass them anywhere, so please be diligent and inspect all currency when received," a notice from the department reads. "If any of these fake bills are located, or presented to you, please contact your local law enforcement agency."

In the Longview area, Gregg County Sheriff's Office spokesman Josh Tubb said his department was investigating two cases in the past two months in which movie money was passed off as real.

Tubb declined to provide specific details on those cases.

Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian said her department had not seen cases of such funny money being used.

In Rusk County, sheriff's spokesman David Roberts said no movie money counterfeit cases had been reported, but officers there investigate three or four cases of counterfeit money every year on average. Roberts said those usually take place at mini malls or convenience stores.

The movie money most often is being used at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, Hartley said, because cashiers at such businesses often are too busy to look closely at the bills.

"We have had a few bills that came in through deposit," he said, noting that the bills had been turned over to the U.S. Secret Service for investigation.

Hartley said movie money is not yet a serious problem in the Longview area.

"But it's an interesting story," he said.

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