CHICAGO — A man passed three counterfeit $100 bills at a West Loop restaurant on Friday night and had five more fake Benjamins in his wallet when police arrested him a short time later, officials say.
The bills were originally genuine $10 notes, but someone bleached the currency and reprinted it with $100 markings, prosecutors said Sunday during a bail hearing for 43-year-old Antoine McGee.
Restaurants and bars in the neighborhood have been on the lookout lately after fake C-notes started showing up in tills across the area.
Late Friday night, McGee belly-upped to a bar in the 800 block of West Randolph, asked for “the cheapest thing on the menu, and then ordered a Corona,” an assistant state’s attorney said during the court session.
McGee gave the bartender a $100 bill and received change for his order, prosecutors said. The bartender showed the bill to his manager because he thought it looked funny.
Meanwhile, McGee flagged down another bartender and asked her to break another $100 bill, prosecutors said.
She obliged, then decided to test the bill with a counterfeit detection pen because it didn’t feel right. The bill passed the test because the paper is genuine U.S. currency stock.
The second bartender took the bill to her manager anyhow. And the manager called the police.
Cops arrested McGee as he walked out of the establishment. As police handled the situation, a valet worker reported that McGee had given him change for yet another $100 around 11 p.m.
A Secret Service agent inspected the three passed bills and five others police allegedly recovered from McGee, prosecutors said. The agent determined that the bills had genuine watermarks and security threads for $10 bills, not $100s, and some of the notes had the same serial numbers. The money had been “washed” and converted to the higher denomination.
During the court hearing, a prosecutor told Judge Barbara Dawkins that McGee indicated that he knew the bills were counterfeit. But McGee and his defense attorney both told Dawkins that he did not know they were fake. The lawyer went on to say that McGee received the bills from a woman as payment for landscaping services.
He has been working for the past month as a truck driver for Divvy, moving bikes around the city, the attorney continued. He’s working on his GED and helps children with their homework at a youth center where he went when he was young, the lawyer said.
Dawkins ordered him to pay a $500 bail deposit to go home and await trial on a forgery charge.
Prosecutors said he was convicted of identity theft in 2017 and 2018. Between 2002 and 2008, he was convicted of armed robbery three times.