Brooke Yarberry with son Landon, 4, right, and neighbor Tyler Jenkins, 11, at left, received one of the fake bills but didn't realize it was bogus until she tried to change it at a gas station.
A pair of small-time East Toledo counterfeiters were caught red-handed Friday after they passed a half-dozen fake $20 bills at garage sales in Northwood, police said.
"They weren't hitting big companies; they were hitting the little people," said Kevin Jennings of Norma Place, a victim of the scheme who went on to help Northwood police apprehend the accused duo.
Northwood police said it was a low-tech operation that involved the use of a computer scanner and a copier.
Officers arrested Charles W. Metzler, 47, and Brandy N. Coleman, 26, both of 1136 Earl St., on forgery charges and said police are working with the U.S. Secret Service to identify other possible victims of the counterfeiting operation.
Sgt. Doug Hubaker said Mr. Metzler and Ms. Coleman passed a total of six counterfeit $20 bills Friday at four garage sales, from Owen Street to Norma Place to West Andrus Road to Tracy Road.
After receiving complaints from several victims, officers eventually caught up with Mr. Metzler and saw him attempt to pass a fake bill at a fifth garage sale on Farnstead Drive, Sergeant Hubaker said.
He said Mr. Metzler and Ms. Coleman were in possession of six more fake $20 bills in addition to the six they used.
All 12 fake bills were copies of an authentic $20 bill that officers found in Mr. Metzler's sock, Sergeant Hubaker said.
Mr. Jennings recalled yesterday how Ms. Coleman handed the fake $20 to his son's girlfriend, Brooke Yarberry, to pay $4 for a candle holder and several cans of Pepsi.
He said Ms. Coleman seemed intent on making small talk throughout the transaction, at one point announcing plans to return with more money to buy a $10 child's bike. However, Ms. Yarberry had just handed her $16 in change.
"I thought it was kind of funny because she said she'd be back in 20 minutes to buy the bike, but she already had $10," Mr. Jennings said.
Shortly afterward, Ms. Yarberry went to a nearby gas station to change some $20 bills for $5 and $1 bills. The station's clerk refused to accept the $20 that Ms. Coleman had used because it didn't pass inspection with a counterfeit detector pen.
"She said, 'I can't give you change for it because it's fake,'•" Ms. Yarberry recalled.
On close inspection she saw how the fraudulent bill looked somewhat blurry and felt thicker than a genuine $20 bill.
Mr. Jennings and his son, Joe Jennings, scoured their neighborhood searching for Ms. Coleman and the green Ford Explorer she rode away in.
They eventually spotted the vehicle and reported its license plate number to police, Mr. Jennings said.
Rebecca Williford, whose garage sale on Owen Road also attracted the suspects, said she was aware of the risk and had a funny-money marker of her own - but she hadn't used it.
"We had gotten busy, so I wasn't marking them [incoming bills] - like an idiot," she said ruefully.
"I think it's pretty crappy" that counterfeiters would target yard sales, Ms. Williford said.
Sergeant Hubaker said he recommends paying close attention to a bill's look and feel whenever there's any doubt about its authenticity.
Mr. Metzler and Ms. Coleman are being held in the Wood County jail in lieu of $5,000 bond.
All current U.S. bills $5 and higher have watermarks that a scanner or copier would not reproduce.
The Jenningses turned over the fake bill they received to police. They're still waiting to receive the real $20.
"Now how do we get our $20 back, that's what I want to know," Mr. Jennings said.
Contact JC Reindl at: