HAZLET – Four young adults from Staten Island are accused of using phony $20 bills to purchase prepaid gift cards and fast food in the Bayshore Shopping Plaza.
The individuals have been arrested and are now facing charges of forgery and theft by deception. Their cases are being handled by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
The swindle was detected by a ShopRite loss prevention officer who recognized a phony $20 bill and alerted police. Through investigation led by Hazlet Det. Michael Tristao utilizing surveillance cameras and other means, the police were able to identify four people who they say made $240 worth of purchases on March 4 in ShopRite, Staples and McDonald’s, all located in the same plaza.
On June 27, police arrested and charged Giaonna A. Savattere of Ionia Ave., who was 18 at the time of her arrest. The next day, Dante I. Butterfield, 18, of Peter Street was arrested and charged. Both were charged with one count each of forgery and theft by deception. On July 2, Cory B. Tosado, 21, of Holiday Way was arrested and charged. He is facing two counts each of forgery and theft by deception.
Shalon Brown, 21, of Richmond Ave. is also connected to the case and facing similar forgery and theft charges. The New York Police Department executed a search warrant on his vehicle and recovered several counterfeit $20 bills and uncut sheets of $50s and $100s, according to Hazlet Police. He is currently being held in jail at Riker’s Island, they said. After he is processed by Hazlet Police, the charges will be forwarded to the Monmouth County Superior Court, where his case will be heard.
Monroe, Howell and Parsippany police had reported similar cases, according to Hazlet Police Lt. Scott Mura.
Mura said counterfeit bills can surface sporadically, almost “cyclically,” he said.
“Be vigilant looking at your money,” he advised Hazlet merchants, particularly the $20 dollar and $100 dollar notes, which are the most popular bills to counterfeit. Sometimes fakes cannot be detected with the swipe of a detection marker, he said.
An easy way to tell if a $20 is authentic is to look number in the bottom right corner of the bill, and see if the color shifts from copper to green when tilted. Also, holding the bill up to the light will reveal another, smaller portrait of Andrew Jackson “hidden” within the paper itself as a watermark. Harder to see is a plastic security strip embedded vertically up one side of the bill, on Jackson’s right side, with the words “USA TWENTY” and a small flag repeating.
Mura advises cashiers to be wary of weird sales that require paying out lots of cash. “Be suspicious of someone paying for a $5 item with a $100 bill,” he said.
Hazlet Police say they want merchants to call them if they have concerns. When a pet store called police believing they had a fake $5 bill, police checked it out.
“Turned out it was from 1945. It wasn’t fake at all.” Mura said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated July 9 to include information about Shalon Brown.