To celebrate his 17th birthday, a Lompoc teenager decided to cash in more than $200 worth of change so he could buy himself a present, but getting detained by police for passing a counterfeit bill was not the kind of gift he was expecting.
On May 16, Jaden Redman took the coins he had saved over two years to the Buellton Albertsons, where he ran them through a Coinstar and exchanged the receipt for money that included a $100 bill.
After an ATM machine rejected the bill, a cashier verified the bill was fake, and the police were called.
Santa Barbara County Senior Deputy Jamie VanWagoner was working an overtime shift when he arrived at the grocery store.
After checking the surveillance camera footage, VanWagoner determined a customer had used the bill during checkout, and the bill then was passed to Redman, who had no idea it was fake.
"I've seen a lot of fake money in my [14-year] career and this was a really good $100 bill," VanWagoner said, adding the bill lacked typical security features, such as watermarks, and could have been detected with an anti-counterfeit device.
To make matters worse for Redman, the store manager cited policy that prohibited him from reimbursing counterfeit bills, according to the teenager.
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An Albertsons store manager referred questions to a company spokesperson, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
VanWagoner took matters into his own hands, however, and withdrew $100 from his own bank account. He then called Redman back to the sheriff's substation to give him the money and wish him a happy birthday.
"I was surprised, but very happy," said Redman, who used the money to purchase a new computer keyboard. "It made me think very highly of [VanWagoner]."
Through the course of the investigation, VanWagoner learned that a man standing in front of Redman in the cashier's line used the fake $100 bill to pay for $91 worth of groceries.
Even though the man hasn't been identified, VanWagoner also believes the man didn't know he passed a counterfeit bill.
VanWagoner asked the manager to pass the image of the unidentified man to other Albertsons stores in the hopes they could find him.
The case is under investigation and was referred to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeit currency, VanWagoner said.
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