Fake travelers checks found in Silverthorne, Breck
SUMMIT COUNTY – Posted on the cash register at Gemini Sports in Silverthorne is a detailed description of the counterfeit $100 bills that were passed in Breckenridge last month.
But that didn’t prepare a clerk for a bogus $100 Citicorp Visa Travelers Cheque she received Sunday evening from a man who purchased an inexpensive pair of earrings and pocketed the change.
Two such checks were passed in Silverthorne Sunday, and at least as many in Breckenridge.
Unlike the bogus $100 bills that were floating around Breckenridge last month, the travelers checks had a lot of flaws, Silverthorne police said.
“The clerk flipped it over to stamp it and it was really fuzzy, really blurry,” said Gemini owner Margie Houtkooper. “The printing looks like a color photo copy.”
Citicorp officials later told Houtkooper the travelers check number did not exist.
Also on Sunday, a sales clerk at Mountain Touch Hallmark in Silverthorne took a $100 travelers check in exchange for a candle and card totalling about $15. The man who made the purchase pocketed about $85, said manager Elaine Boehmer.
That discovery was made Monday by a bank teller when the store deposit was made. The teller recognized the check as a fake because she was the sales clerk who accepted the other fake check at Gemini Sportswear the previous day.
Three more bogus traveler’s checks were discovered in Breckenridge at Space Cowboy, Shirt Off My Back and Arctic Attitude.
According to Space Cowboy general manager Aurora Minette, she accepted a fake travelers check from a man who bought about $75 worth of merchandise. The discovery was made at the bank.
“I didn’t originally see anything suspicious,” Minette said. “But after I went to the bank and the teller showed me what they were supposed to look like, then I realized.”
The man who passed that check was 35 or 40, with black hair and fair skin. The identification he gave her matched the name on the check, she said.
Another bad travelers check was taken at Shirt off my Back for a $2 pin. And a clerk at Arctic Attitude took another from a woman who spent $26 – signing the check Nicole Morison – and pocketed the change.
Police are looking for two – possibly three – suspects in the case.
“I’m fairly certain these cases are associated,” said Silverthorne Police Sergeant Bryan Siebel. “But we haven’t verified that by getting together and getting all the facts.”
The first suspect, who passed his fake check at the Silverthorne sportswear company, is described as a white male, about 5-foot-8 and 215 pounds, with black hair and sideburns and wearing an olive jacket and dark pants. He signed the check Desmond Ryan.
The man who purchased the candle and card at the Hallmark store was described as slightly taller, well-groomed and slender, Boehmer said.
A suspect in one of the Breckenridge cases is believed to be a black woman with a light complexion and copper-colored hair with beads braided into it. She is described as 5-foot-9 and weighing about 160 pounds. She was wearing a black leather jacket and blue jeans.
A similar incident took place in Breckenridge about a year ago, said Breckenridge Police Officer Joe Staufer. The traveler’s checks, which originated in California, also were photocopies.
“I don’t know if this is the time of year they want to do these kinds of things,” Staufer said. “We obviously educated the community to a degree (after bogus bills were passed in March). Last year, we didn’t find out they were fraudulent until they came from the bank. Yesterday, the business manager at Arctic Attitude gave us a call because she suspected something was wrong.”
Police say printing on the checks is fuzzy and aren’t as crisp as genuine travelers checks. The real checks also have a watermark when held up to the light, and a rough surface where the denominations are printed.
Police recommend merchants treat travelers checks in the same manner as personal checks by requesting identification before accepting them. Merchants can call the VISA travelers check hotline if they have any doubts about a VISA travelers check at (800) 227-6811. Additionally, merchants may contact the local police or sheriff’s department to determine if a check or cash currency is fraudulent.
Anyone with information regarding the suspects is encouraged to call the Det. George Booth at the Breckenridge Police Department (453-2941) or Sergeant Bryan Siebel at the Silverthorne Police Department at 262-7320.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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