A man with a backpack of scanned bank notes scammed some Juneau businesses, but he couldn't fool the Secret Service.
Jesse Deming, 23, spent three weeks in Juneau passing about $1,500 worth of counterfeit $50 and $100 bills, said Michael Sweaze, resident agent with the U.S. Secret Service office in Anchorage.
Deming was apprehended in a Juneau taxi as he tried to catch a ferry Wednesday, Sweaze said. The agent said Deming's backpack contained about $25,000 in counterfeit bills created with a scanner printer.
"The quality wasn't particularly good," Sweaze said. "Some merchants say, 'Oh, what the heck!' and absorb the loss. Others just pass them on to the next guy."
Deming, a resident of California, planned to take the ferry from Juneau to Skagway and then hike over the Chilkoot Trail into Canada, Sweaze said.
"According to the statement he gave, he intended to use the counterfeit money to buy drugs. From my point of view, that's not too smart, because drug dealers tend to be mean when they find they've been
cheated," Sweaze said.
Deming was charged with manufacturing, passing and possessing counterfeit bills and sent to an Anchorage jail. He could face 15 years in prison for each of the three counts.
Two streams of information alerted the Secret Service to the scam. First, someone walked into the Juneau office of the FBI and informed on Deming. Then, the Juneau Police Department received 10 reports of phony bills from local merchants, Sweaze said.
It takes a while to catch up with counterfeiters because they often pass bills in convenience marts.
"Then, if the bill is not noticed by the clerk, it goes into a night deposit. The bank notifies the businesses and passes the bills on to us. We catalog the locations where they were passed. Slowly, it started to come together and we identified Deming as our suspect," Sweaze said.
Some Juneau businesses were apparently unaffected by the scam.
"I don't know anything about it; it's news to me," said Rod Swope, owner of Galligaskins and a member of the tourism-promotion group Destination Juneau.
"We don't believe we got any counterfeit bills," said Larry Bendersky, manager of the Armadillo Tex Mex Cafe. "I don't think any of them were passed here, because our bank has not notified us after we made deposits."
Suzanne Good, specialty foods manager at the Alaskan & Proud market, said her business knew to watch out for phony bills.
"The people that count the money in the office are aware," she said. "We had some two years ago. It's one of those things; once you have been stung, you look."