Man wanted in 3 states passed a phony $100 bill at a Wicker Park bar, prosecutors say

CHICAGO — A man wanted in three states is in custody after he allegedly passed a counterfeit $100 bill at a Wicker Park bar. Paul Bradford Crowder, 27, was held without bail for warrants five times by Judge Charles Beach during a Saturday afternoon bail hearing, plus another $10,000 bail deposit for the new allegations.

“Mr. Crowder, you’ve been busy,” a seemingly exhausted Beach said after detailing all the jurisdictions looking for Crowder.

“Nah. It’s just old stuff,” Crowder replied.

Chicago police arrested him late Thursday night in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee after a bar bouncer reported that he gave the bartender a phony $100 bill.

Crowder tendered the bill in exchange for a shot and a serving of pineapple juice at Nick’s Beergarden, 1516 North Milwaukee, prosecutor Rhianna Biernat told the judge. The bartender didn’t have a light to check the bill’s authenticity, so she put it under the register. Biernat said it was the only $100 bill the bar received that night.

A bouncer noticed that Crowder threw his drink on the ground and walked out after getting his change, so he took a closer look at the $100 bill, knowing that fake hundreds had been making the rounds. He immediately realized it was counterfeit because it bore some markings of a $10 bill, not a $100.

CWBChicago told you about the phony $100 scam last month. Someone had been bleaching $10 bills and printing $100 artwork on them, we reported. But the security thread and watermark on the altered bills prove they used to be tens.

Paul Bradford Crowder | Chicago Police Department; Yelp!

Biernat said the bouncer at Nicks found Crowder at a bar next door and called in the police.

When officers approached Crowder, he pulled a bag from his underwear and told the cops that he had about $8,000 in cash in the bag and invited them to count it. They did. It was $8,738 in real money, the judge noted as he set bail in the case.

Cops also saw Crowder stuff another fake $100 into his seat cushion, Biernat said, and he had 13 more fake $100s in his possession. In all, Crowder allegedly had 15 counterfeit $100s, all bearing the markings of a $10 bill, and 14 of them with the same serial number.

Two officers were injured when Crowder resisted arrest, Biernat said.

His public defender said he is a self-employed audio engineer with one child.

“He has no money to post for bond at this time,” the lawyer told Beach.

“When you say no money, you mean no legitimate money to post for bond?” the judge countered.

Crowder was wanted on two warrants for burglary in DuPage County. He also had fugitive warrants for forgery in St. Croix County, Wisconsin; forgery in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, under the alias Clyde Dobbs; and counterfeiting in Lake County, Indiana.

The Wicker Park incident resulted in a host of local charges, including two counts of felony forgery, felony resisting, and five misdemeanors.

Bogus Benjamins

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged another man with passing similar bills in the West Loop.

Late on April 14, Antoine McGee, 43, sat down at a bar in the 800 block of West Randolph, asked for “the cheapest thing on the menu, and then ordered a Corona,” a prosecutor said during his bail hearing.

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.

Here’s a fake $100 bill that was passed in the West Loop on June 1. The watermark at the far right is of Alexander Hamilton, the man on $10 bills, not Benjamin Franklin. | Provided

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. But, just like at the West Loop stores yesterday, 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.

A Secret Service agent inspected the three passed bills and five others police allegedly recovered from McGee. 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 a bail hearing this spring, a prosecutor told Judge Barbara Dawkins that McGee indicated that he knew the bills were counterfeit. But McGee and his defense attorney told Dawkins that he did not know they were fake. The lawyer said that McGee received the bills from a woman as payment for landscaping services.

Less refined approach

In May, prosecutors charged another man with passing fake $100 bills at a Logan Square grocery store. But his scheme, officials said, wasn’t as refined as the West Loop scam.

Prosecutors said Antoine Lee gathered a few items at Rico Fresh Market, 3552 West Armitage, and paid for them with a bogus $100 bill, receiving $72 in real money as change. Lee proceeded to the store’s restaurant area, presenting another fake C-note and receiving $65 in change.

But, unlike the West Loop bills, officials said, Lee’s funny money was wholly counterfeit. One of the bills even had the word “COPY” printed on it.

Both cashiers at Rico Fresh Market thought the bills were fake, and the manager stopped Lee as he headed out the door. Officials said Lee bit the manager’s arm during a scuffle, but he failed to escape before the police arrived.

Believe it or not, people have passed fake hundreds bearing the word “COPY” all over the country.

In February, two phony $100 bills bearing identical serial numbers and the word “COPY” were passed in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. That’s about an hour east of Minneapolis. Similar bills were found circulating late last year near the Canadian border in Norwood, New York.

Someone passed movie prop money, marked “COPY” and “For Motion Picture Use Only” near Cleveland in 2018. A version of the same bills popped up in Vermont.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is