Corbin Police say the case of two men who allegedly attempted to buy cigarettes with counterfeit $100 bills at Mega Mart Friday morning is not an isolated incident, though they do not appear to be connected.
Vernon Messer, 56, of Corbin and Douglas Bargo, 37, of Rockhold, have pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument after they were found to be in possession of a total of 14 counterfeit $100 bills.
A clerk at the store caught the duo after s/he determined the bills to be counterfeit. The pair informed the clerk that the money was forged and that it was, “a long story,” said Corbin Police Officer Will Stewart.
The two men tried to leave, but a flat tire prevented their escape.
Corbin Police arrived on the scene and took the men into custody. Messer and Bargo informed police that they had bought the money at a Spur station in Laurel County and this was the first time they had tried to use the money.
Messer and Bargo are each being held in the Knox County Detention Center on separate $25,000 cash bonds.
Each man is scheduled to return to Knox District Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to present the case to a Knox County grand jury.
Corbin Police Lieutenant Coy Wilson, the department’s public affairs officer, said police received a call after similar bills were presented at Dollar Tree at 18th and Main Street over the weekend.
However, the individual was able to leave the scene before police arrived.
Wilson said the bills have Chinese characters on them and will not pass the test when the marker used at many businesses is run across them.
“People should be able to tell by the feel,” Wilson said noting the paper is not the same as that used by the U.S. Treasury.
While anyone caught attempting to pass the bills faces local charges, Wilson emphasized that anytime local law enforcement encounters counterfeit money, officers are required to contact the U.S. Secret Service.
“They could take the case to federal court,” Wilson said.