Counterfeit case a reminder to all summertime festivals

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Skyler Patrick Carlson (photo courtesy of Pella PD)

The Pella Police Department has arrested a 20-year-old suspect believed to have passed at least 17 counterfeit $20 bills to vendors at Tulip Time. This serves as a reminder to all vendors and businesses to take time to look at cash when handed it.

Between May 2-3, the department received many reports of the counterfeit bills being passed to vendors. A prompt investigation of these cases allowed officers to develop a description of the male suspect which was distributed to festival vendors.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Friday, May 3, a West Market Park vendor observed the male passing a counterfeit $20 bill and notified police. He was apprehended a short distance away. Officers discovered the suspect to allegedly be in possession of $380 in counterfeit $20 bills.

The suspect, Skyler Patrick Carlson, was living in a dormitory at Central College. A search warrant was granted for his room and officers are said to have found $840 in counterfeit $20 bills. In addition, several items purchased from vendors were said to be found, along with around $700 of legal currency in ones, fives and tens.

Pella Police Chief Robert Bokinsky tells the Tribune that counterfeiters look for events like Tulip Time – or, as summer rolls along, Coal Miners’ Day, Knoxville Nationals, the Pleasantville Pig Out and Fourth of July celebrations – when there may be people unaccustomed to handling cash volunteering for a cause.

No one was aware of the counterfeiting until the phony money began to hit local banks. Counting machines recognized for forgery. Bokinsky said the counterfeit bills passed in Pella look authentic, but there are always subtleties you can look for.

This includes the quality of the paper, the hue of the ink, holograms, bleeding of the ink and more. Sometimes the forger will wash small denominations and print the images of larger bills on top, to have the authentic feel of cash. What they often do is use a large denomination counterfeit bill, like a $20, to purchase an inexpensive item to collect legal tender through change.

Carlson has not been cooperative with police, Bokinsky says, but police believe he worked alone. Counterfeiting is a familiar issue that can present itself in many different ways. Carlson has been charged with money laundering, forgery and fourth-degree theft. More charges are expected.