Picayune High School student caught with counterfeit funds

Published 6:27 pm Friday, November 2, 2007

Three Picayune Memorial High School students have been charged in conjunction with the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit currency.

One suspect was charged with the manufacture of the counterfeit currency while the other two suspects were charged for the distribution of the fake bills.

A home computer along with a scanner and printer were used to produce the convincing counterfeit bills, said Picayune Police Capt. Bryan Dawsey, who is head of security for the Picayune school district. The denominations collected included $10s, $20s, $100s and even $1s.

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“Allegedly there’s some $5s out there too, but we haven’t recovered any yet,” Dawsey said.

Suspects charged included three juveniles ranging in age from 15 to 17. The suspect charged with the manufacture of the currency has been charged with forgery, while the other two suspects were charged with uttering forgery, Dawsey said.

Officers suspect that about $2,000 of the fake money was produced on the Dell home computer, but only $1,200 was recovered.

Police were alerted to the crime Tuesday after the high school cafeteria had finished serving breakfast. Apparently one of the suspects used a fake $20 bill to purchase breakfast. Dawsey said that it was at about 9 a.m. when he was contacted about the bill.

Further investigation and a tip from a school staff member helped lead Picayune Police Department investigators to the home of the suspect believed to have manufactured the currency. With the parents’ consent, police investigators searched the home and found the counterfeit currency and the computer believed to have been used in the currency’s manufacture.

A lot of the currency found had been roughed up to give it a real feel. Only a trained eye or touching the money gave away the currency’s counterfeit nature. At first look the money appeared authentic.

One of the suspects charged with uttering forgery was giving the counterfeit bills to other students and then asked those students to purchase whatever they wanted with fake money as long as they brought back the change.

To Dawsey’s knowledge this was the first counterfeit currency ring to operate at PMHS.

Other investigators with the Picayune Police Department assisted in the investigation.

Local businesses should be aware there still could be some of the counterfeit currency circulating in the community, Picayune police officials said. Business owners or managers who suspect they have found any of fake money should contact Capt. Theresa Milar at 601-798-6828.

“We are communicating with the (United States) Secret Service on this matter and getting guidance,” Chief Jim Luke said. “We feel like at this time we have all the suspects involved in this incident based on the information we have right now.”

Representatives with the Secret Service were not available for comment Thursday afternoon.