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Counteracting counterfeiters: Dickinson Police work with Secret Service to uncover fake bills

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Counterfeit bills will often have sloppy printing, as shown here by Det. Terry Oestreich of the Dickinson Police Department on Monday afternoon. This bill was turned in to the police by Hardees. While usually spiking at Christmas, the Dickinson Police have seen a lot of counterfeits this January, and officers believe it is tied to drug trafficking in the area.

Banks and businesses are reporting more counterfeit bills to the Dickinson Police Department. Happening several times a week, the local authorities are working with the Secret Service, the agency charged with the protection of American currency, to find the source of the counterfeit bills.

“We’ve had about 15 to 20 bills that have come in,” Dickinson Police Detective Terry Oestreich said. “It’s still an active investigation.”

A Dickinson man was arrested in Morton County last week for counterfeiting, a Class C felony. Semen Pichinevskiy, 19, is accused of making copies of $20 bills and purchasing a $40 Internet router from a rural Morton County woman with the fake money.

Pichinevskiy allegedly used a friend’s printer in Mandan to make copies of the bills, according to an affidavit signed by Tom Sharp, a Morton County sheriff’s deputy. On Jan. 17, Pichinevskiy allegedly admitted to Sharp that he made the copies and four others, which he used at Mandan businesses and ended up at the Mandan Police Department.

An arrest was made in the case on Jan. 21.

The counterfeits the Dickinson Police are finding are more sophisticated than color copies, however. Many fakes are smaller bills that have been washed of their ink, and then reprinted with a larger denomination, Oestreich said.

Because all bills are printed on the same paper, the markers used to tell if the paper is real are useless when counterfeiters use smaller bills to make big bills, Oestreich said.

“Overall, the quality of the printing is just not as good,” Oestreich said.

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t see many instances of counterfeiting, Capt. Dean Franchuk said. Because most businesses and banks are located in cities, local police departments handle those cases.

Counterfeiting tends to peak around the holidays, said Louis Stephens, the Secret Service agent in charge of the Minneapolis Field Office.

“A lot of that is because a lot of shopping occurs, there’s a lot more cash transactions than normally occur than at other times of the year,” Stephens said. “I think counterfeiters just look at it as a target-rich opportunity because things are so busy, retailers or financial institutions might not be paying as much attention to the bills that they get because the volume’s higher.”

The recent counterfeits to hit Dickinson came after the holidays, and authorities think they may be related to drug activity.

“I think we can tie it to drug issues here in town,” Oestreich said. Most of the counterfeits have been $100 bills, but a few have been $50 bills.

Counterfeiters are not able to print as crisply and clearly as a U.S. Mint, meaning print quality is one of the biggest tells, Oestreich said.

“Be really particular about nice, crisp, sharp printing,” Oestreich said. “Even the really good ones, the printing isn’t as sharp.”

If anyone suspects a bill someone is trying to spend is fake, they should refuse the bills and call the police, Oestreich said. Any information that can be obtained should be written down, including identification, license plate numbers, house numbers.

“The last person with the counterfeit is the one who takes the loss,” Stephens said. “If you are a person that’s conducting a transaction and you have concerns that the money that is being presented to you might be counterfeit, you don’t have to take it.”

Occasionally, real bills get called in as counterfeits, but the police would rather respond to a fake call than miss out on a real one, Oestreich said.

“The Secret Service aggressively works with local law enforcement to pursue instances of counterfeit currency,” Stephens said.

Learn and report

To learn more about counterfeit tells, visit To report a counterfeit bill in Dickinson, call 701-456-7759.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206