North Bay authorities warn about counterfeit cash after pot bust

- There's new concern about counterfeit money in the North Bay after the Highway Patrol found something unusual during a traffic stop.

It started in the parking lot of the Graton Casino in Rohnert Park around midnight Tuesday. Officers say two men agreed to a drug deal.

$4,500 for marijuana. One man got his dope, the other got his cash.

CHP officer Jon Sloat told KTVU that the man who sold the pot quickly realized something was wrong.

"Once they got the marijuana and began to leave, the seller was suspicious of this money and started to realize this was probably fake," said Officer Sloat.

The dealer chased down the buyer, resulting in a small accident on the Golf Course Drive on ramp to Highway 101.

By the time the CHP sorted things out they realized they had two pounds of pot and 45 bogus one hundred dollar bills.

They also had one upset drug dealer who wanted officers to make things right.

"He wanted to get paid or wanted his product back and thought maybe we could help them with it and he was incorrect," said Sloat.

It's hardly the first time bad bills have popped up in Sonoma County.

Lea Wilson runs a girl's clothing boutique in Windsor called "Tutu-A-Go go".

"I don't want to take any hundred dollar bills at all anymore," Wilson told KTVU.

Several businesses in Windsor and wineries in the Dry Creek area were hit with counterfeit hundreds last month.

Wilson took to social media to spread the word among fellow business owners.

"We've all been talking about it. I actually posted about it on Facebook. I can't believe I got a fake hundred dollar bill. In four years in business this has never happened," said Wilson.

A gas station at the corner of Marlow and Guerneville Roads in Santa Rosa was also victimized.

Now station clerks use a machine to detect potential counterfeits.

"You enter bills, you put the code and if it rejects it we give their money back and let them know we're not taking it." said one clerk as she demonstrated the device.

Station clerk Vicki Mendoza says she now checks every suspicious bill before accepting it.

"All the time every day because it even happens with five and ten dollar bills," she told KTVU.

Mendoza thinks other counterfeiters were targeting her business.

"I'd say it was a group of people and once they knew we were accepting it, it started happening, said Mendoza. And once we knew, it stopped."

So far four men have been arrested: three for having counterfeit money and one for the marijuana sale.

The CHP says the Secret Service is notified every time counterfeit money is found and agents are trying to determine where the bogus money is coming from.

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