The arrest of five people may have cracked a counterfeiting ring that included several counties and cities in Iowa. Burlington Police Lieutenant Darren Grimshaw says they started an investigation after merchants and bankers complained of getting a surge in "funny money" being spent locally. He says four people from the Chicago area and a Burlington native were taking genuine five-dollar bills, bleaching off the ink, and then printing fifty-dollar images onto them. He says that technique is aimed at evading many of the techniques used to detect counterfeiting.

They bleach a five and print a fifty over the top, because most businesses use a small, cheap, counterfeit-detection "pen" that marks a bill and turns a certain color to show it’s fake. By using real currency to generate higher denominations, they could sidestep the effectiveness of that method. Grimshaw says the case extends far beyond Burlington.

They’ve found recently that the counterfeit fifties are showing up in the Quad Cities, and in the Iowa City and Fort Madison areas. "They passed thousands of dollars in counterfeit fifties around the southeast Iowa area and the eastern part of the state," Grimshaw says. The lieutenant confirms the counterfeit cash found in retail stores and banks in the other cities matches the evidence from the Burlington arrests.

Through serial numbers, they’ve verified the fakes have showed up in other jurisdictions. He says the federal She Secret Service is now involved in the case. Grimshaw, the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division for Burlington police, praised the local clerks and bank tellers for helping spot the phonies and track down their source.