With the recent arrests of individuals in Hempstead and Nevada Counties for the use and possession of movie prop money, many in our area were exposed for the first time to yet another source criminals can use to try to scam or rip businesses and individuals off. However, the use of the prop cash and easy access to it is nothing new.
Dozens of reports exist from communities across the United States going back to at least 2016. Everything from stores and restaurants to credit unions have fallen prey to individuals who have passed off the fake bills and many people have found themselves in jail as a result of using it.
What’s far more amazing than the fact that there are people that would try to pass off the movie props as real cash is that it is completely legal to purchase, very inexpensive and easily available to anyone who can make online purchases.
While there are shady websites in China and other foreign countries where much of the prop currency is purchased, a quick search of the largest online retailer in the United States, Amazon.com, turns up dozens of purchase options.
All of the movie prop bills are marked or identified as props in some way on their face and back but some of the bills appear much closer to the real thing than others. Some use altered images that are clearly not one of our dead presidents or have bright pink Chinese lettering on the face and some change out text phrases like “Motion Picture Currency” and “Not Legal Tender” but others, like what the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office confiscated look identical on their face except for a small “Copy” at the end of the serial number or “Prop Money” small along the border. This presents an added headache to anyone in businesses that accept cash.
According to law enforcement, some of the prop cash has a waxy feel to it when the bills are in newer condition and they will show as fake when a counterfeit detection pen is used on them. The U.S. government has a website that provides educational resources to help in identifying what legitimate currency looks like at https://www.uscurrency.gov/ .
The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office said that the prop currency wasn’t something that they were aware of being an issue but recommended anyone has someone attempt to pass off fake currency notify law enforcement immediately but not to put themselves in any possible danger by tipping off the person trying to pass it that you have done so.
Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said, “I would like to advise the Citizens and Business of Hempstead County to be aware that this fake currency is circulating. Please check your currency when you receive it and make sure it is real currency.”
Hope Police Department Assistant Chief Kim Tomlin said that the Hope Police Department has also encountered some of the prop currency recently. Tomlin said people need to be “extremely observant, more observant than usual, when taking part in cash transactions. If you receive some, call law enforcement.”
Potential victims aren’t the only ones who need to be extremely careful about the prop cash. With cheap, legal access to the fake currency, the temptation to try to exploit it for personal gain can be high but it is a serious criminal act. If caught trying to pass off fake currency and convicted, according to U.S. law, you are facing at least 20 years in prison, not including other charges you can face on the state level.
If you encounter anyone attempting to use counterfeit money, contact your local law enforcement immediately. For educational resources, visit https://www.uscurrency.gov/ .