WESTERLY — A New York woman is facing charges and police have seized $1,500 in counterfeit currency after the police said officers discovered 15 fake $100 bills after the woman had tried to use one to buy a prepaid gift card from a Granite Street business on Friday.
Westerly police took 23-year-old Shayla D. Williams, of Brooklyn, N.Y., into custody Friday afternoon on charges of passing a counterfeit bill and possession of a counterfeit bill. She was arraigned before a justice of the peace and released after posting a $4,000 court-set surety bond pending an appearance for a felony screening in Washington County Superior Court on Nov. 13.
Police Chief Shawn Lacey said if not for an alert clerk at Walgreens, where Williams had attempted to pass a counterfeit $100 bill, and an off-duty employee who was able to locate Williams' rental car, the case may have otherwise gone unsolved. He said their efforts aided officers in both locating Williams and seizing the money.
"The clerk was alert and held onto the counterfeit money rather than returning it to the suspect," Lacey said. "We were able to use the bill to compare with other counterfeit money in the car, and the bills all contained the same exact serial numbers."
According to a police report, officers were first alerted to a problem around 3:30 p.m. Saturday after Williams attempted to use a counterfeit $100 at Walgreens at 170 Granite St. The clerk took the bill and a $5 bill that were used to pay for the $100 gift card, which has a processing fee, but paused at the sight of the bill and tested it using a marker, which revealed the bill to be fake.
The clerk told Williams the money wasn't real and returned the $5 bill to Williams, keeping the counterfeit money and immediately calling police. Williams immediately left in a rental car with New York license plates, and the information was provided to the police.
While officers were still taking a report, the police said an off-duty employee of Walgreens called to report that the car in question, a rental car with New York license plates, was now in the parking lot in front of the nearby Family Dollar.
Officers approached the car and spoke with Williams, who admitted to the interaction at Walgreens and told the police she was asked by a friend to purchase the gift card. Officers conducted a search of the car and found 14 additional fake bills, which were seized as evidence.
Lacey said this week that the department is asking business owners to remain on alert. Those who feel a bill is fake should not hesitate to contact police, he said.
"This case was the result of an alert clerk who took appropriate action to report the problem," Lacey said. "Unfortunately we do see this type of scam on occasion coming from Boston or New York. the best way for businesses to avoid falling victim is to remain alert and report anything that seems suspicious."