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Flood of fake $50s in Heights


Phony $50 bills have been popping up in Jersey City Heights stores and the U.S. Treasury Department is impressed by the counterfeits, which it says were likely made in a foreign country.

"They are a very good fakes, and I've been touching money 27 years," said Michael Yun, owner of Garden State News, on Central Avenue at Bowers Street.

"Usually you see them just around holiday time, and it's usually $20s," said Yun, who received two fake $50s in the past two weeks. "This time it isn't even close to holiday season and it's not $20s, it's $50s." He said he knows of a Heights bank that got 15 in the same period.

Yun, who is president of the Central Avenue Improvement District, has posted a sign in his store telling customers that he is temporarily not accepting $50 bills.

Navin Shah, the owner of 99 Cents Vision, said he was stuck with four fake $50 bills two weeks ago and like Yun, he got a notice from the bank and went to take a look at the bills.

"It looks exactly like the original one," said Shah this morning in front of his store on Central Avenue at Lincoln Street. "We are experienced in this and we cannot tell the difference."

Yun said he knows of a clothing store and a deli on Central Avenue that have received fake $50s, as well as another deli on Summit Avenue.

Cynthia Wofford, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service Field Office in Newark, said investigators believe the bills are made abroad. The location is still under investigation, she added.

Wofford said there are normally two kinds of counterfeit money. Phony money of inferior quality is made using a computer scanner and printer. She said this technique is used by less sophisticated criminals and because the quality is not very good, they tend to print smaller denominations that will not be inspected as thoroughly by a merchant.

More sophisticated counterfeiters, like those who made the $50s passed in the Heights, use offset printing presses like those used to print flyers and newspapers, Wofford said. Using these machines requires skill and training. The presses are expensive and they can be huge, Wofford said.

A warning about the counterfeits is posted at www.jcheights.com and more information on counterfeiting is available at www.secretservice.gov/know_your_money.shtml.