A Clarkstown police officer who was in the right place at the right time is being credited with spotting two women who are accused in a growing investigation of counterfeit $100 bills being passed at stores in Rockland County and the region.
Clarkstown police said they and the U.S. Secret Service suspect that high-quality counterfeit money passed at Palisades Center mall in West Nyack may also be in use at other area shopping malls.
The latest investigation of bogus bills started on Tuesday when a Clarkstown police officer who is assigned to patrol Palisades Center mall happened to be in the security office at the Macy's department store at the mall. Clarkstown Sgt. Harry Baumann said the officer was curious about two women he happened to see on store security cameras.
"The women just walked into the store and picked up two bags without even looking at them and went to pay for them," Baumann said.
After the women paid for two handbags, worth more than a total of $1,000, Baumann said the 13 $100 bills used to pay for the merchandise were all fond to be high-quality fakes. Baumann said the town police officer who spotted the women on the security cameras was able to locate them in the mall parking lot and stopped them as they were driving off in a rental car.
"There were several thousands of dollars worth of merchandise in that car," said Baumann.
Clarkstown police are soon expecting to find that many more bogus bills were passed at other stores at Palisades Center and may have been passed at other shoppings centers in Rockland and Orange counties.
The investigation, so far, has led to the arrest of Tiffany Brown, 22, of the Bronx, and Asia James, 22, of Montgomery, AL, who told police she was born in Brooklyn, on charges of possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny and possession of stolen property, police said.
Buamann said the fake $100 bills passed at Macy's are very realistic and mimic some key currency security features. However, he said the fake bills have flaws that can be quickly spotted by those who know what to look for on real $100 bills.
Police seized the car the women were driving as well as merchandise found in the car as part of the ongoing investigation.
The women were arraigned in Clarkstown Town Court in New City and ordered held in the county jail pending a court hearing on Friday.