When Nancy Walentik went to a Discount Drug Mart in Strongsville to fill a prescription, a cashier told her one of her $20 bills was counterfeit.
The Brunswick resident was more than surprised because she got the bogus bill from her bank earlier that day.
“It irritates me to think that someplace you have faith in and trust in is going to pass a bad bill,” said her husband, Emil Walentik.
He said his wife goes to the Fifth Third Bank on Center Road to cash their Social Security check.
He said a clerk at the Discount Drug Mart discovered the counterfeit bill by using a marker that shows up only on bogus bills.
“The cashier called the manager over and said, this bill looks counterfeit,” Walentik said. “She was shocked. She had just gotten it out of the bank.”
Walentik said he and his wife went to the bank on Monday, but were surprised the bank wouldn’t exchange the bill for a good one.
“They said there was nothing they could do about it, because once she leaves the bank, they’re not responsible,” he said. “I thought they would notify the government and make it right for her.”
Fifth Third Bank spokeswoman Laura Passerallo acknowledged the bank should have told the couple to notify law enforcement about the bill.
“What should have happened is they should have been directed to the Secret Service,” Passerallo said.
She couldn’t comment on why the couple’s bank account was not reimbursed for the amount. She added that the bank is hoping to speak with the couple again regarding the incident.
Passerallo said she couldn’t explain how the counterfeit bill got through the bank’s safeguards.
“We have equipment to look for counterfeit items and we train our staff,” she said.
But counterfeit money can be hard to track, Brunswick police Sgt. Sam Millam said. He said police detectives often try to track counterfeit money, but it usually has passed through too many hands by the time it’s detected.
“There’s never really much we can do,” he said. “If we have someone who passes a bill, we will try to track them down and ask them where they got it.”
Often, the person has had the cash on them for a while or lists a handful of places they’ve visited recently where the money could have come from. Most people police interview after passing counterfeit bills had no idea they were carrying bad money.
“If we can figure out who did it, and where it came from, we’ll make a case,” he said. “But usually there’s not much we can do.”
Walentik said he hopes sharing his story can serve as a cautionary tale to others.
“It’s not even so much about my money, but I want people to know counterfeit money is in Brunswick,” he said.
Walentik said the counterfeit bill his wife got looked real in every way: The paper felt like it had the same weight and texture and the printing was nearly identical as real bills. The only thing missing on his counterfeit bill was the watermark.
“There’s a few slight differences,” Walentik said. “It’s one thing that I’m out $20, but people should know there’s a chance of getting bad money when you go to a bank.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.