Counterfeiters Hit La Mesa Coffee Shop

LA MESA -- Ari Bejar, the proprietor at Cosmos Coffee Cafe in the Village, enjoys a steady stream of customers every day.
At some point in the last week, a couple of his clients handed his baristas $20 bills, ordered a cup of coffee and took $17 and change away with them.
When the daily receipts made it to Union Bank, however, the bills were rejected as fakes.
Upon closer inspection, the paper was a little bit too rigid and the printing techniques weren't quite perfect. But the bills did have the ghosted watermarks and, in the rush of a busy morning, probably would have gotten by most people at a register.
"They are pretty good,'' Bejar (in photo above) said. "I might have taken one of them myself. Not sure yet.''
Bejar was holding the bills for the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting episodes. He was also holding quick seminars with his employees, using the bills to train them on how to identify the bad bills.
"I got stuck with a bad $50 a while ago and that's why we won't take any more than a $20 now,'' Bejar said.

With advances in printing technology, counterfeiters have been in a sort of arms race with the U.S. Treasury which has been redesigning the real bills with increasingly complex methods to make them harder to counterfeit.

Still, as Bejar found this week, sometime the counterfeiters still win. And Bejar, and all merchants hit by these sophisticated thieves, lose -- both the sale proceeds and the change returned to the customer who has wittingly or unwittingly passed the bad bill.

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Tags: Cosmos Coffee Cafe, Crime, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, counterfeit

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Comment by La Mesa Today on July 26, 2014 at 7:59am

I believe the bank allowed Mr. Bejar to use the bills to demonstrate to his staff the subtleties of determining a fake quickly.

Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by Andrew Jackson on July 25, 2014 at 9:02pm

A tough lesson for Mr. Bejar and his Cosmos team. Thankfully it was not a couple of $100 bills.

By the way, I always thought that once a counterfeit bill was deposited and "caught" at a bank the bill was held by the bank and not returned to the depositor. It appears the bank returned the two fake bills to Mr. Behar trusting (and I am not questioning Mr. Behar's integrity!) that he would forward them to the Secret Service. If anybody knows: Was this case an exception or is this how banks routinely "handle" counterfeit bills?

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