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Dumb Criminals - Funny Money

When it comes to money, very few people will agree that they have enough. Some even resort to any means necessary to getting more money – including making their own. Counterfeiting is nearly as old as money itself, with the British Museum displaying molds used to copy money as early as 353-361 AD. Many of these early counterfeiters struck copies of not only valuable silver and gold coins, but of low denominations made from bronze as well. Some modern counterfeiters could take a lesson from the ancient crooks, as often greed leads them to copy large, even non-existent, bills.

Deborah Trautwine, a 51-year-old woman from Pennsylvania, was accused of passing an obviously fake $200 bill at a Fashion Bug in 2004. The bill was noticeably fraudulent, because it featured the portrait of George W. Bush, then President of the United States. Also, there’s the fact that $200 bills don’t exist. Despite this, the cashier accepted the bill and gave Trautwine more than $100 of real money in change. Trautwine was found, but charges were dropped after she repaid the store with valid currency. Her attorney explained that Trautwine did not know the bill was fake.

The $200 bill bearing the serial number “DUBYA4U2001” also appeared the previous year, when a still-unidentified North Carolina man successfully passed one at a Food Lion grocery store to pay for $150 worth of items. Like Trautwine, the man also received his change. Michael Harris, also of North Carolina but not a suspect in the Food Lion case, was arrested after police say he tried to use a $200 bill at a convenience store with a more alert cashier.

Even more ambitious counterfeiters have chosen the vast sum of $1 million for their bills. This forgery is far more evident, given that the United States has never issued a bill that wasn’t a gold certificate for greater than $10,000 and all bills worth $500 or more were officially discontinued in 1969. Plus, the logistical nightmare of using a $1 million bill boggles the mind-what store is going to have adequate funds on hand to render change for any size purchase made with one?

That doesn’t stop people from trying, though. In 2004, Alice Pike attempted to pay a $1,675 bill at the retail giant with a $1 million bill featuring the Statue of Liberty. The 35-year-old Georgia woman claimed to have thought the bill, one of three in her possession, was real.

In 2007, a $1 million bill appeared at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania grocery store, where police say the bearer, Samuel Porter, tried to get change for it. That same year, North Carolina resident Alexander D. Smith allegedly attempted to use a $1 million in the one place clerks should know their money – a bank.

Most recently, in January 2012, Michael Fuller, another North Carolina citizen, allegedly attempted to buy $476 worth of items, including a microwave and vacuum, at a Wal-Mart. He didn’t get $999,524 in change and his purchases, but a free pair of bracelets and a ride in a cop car. As of this writing, Fuller, age 53, stands charged with uttering a forged instrument and attempting to obtain property by false pretenses.

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