By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON -Local law enforcement officers are requesting the public’s assistance in putting a halt to counterfeit money that is circulating in the Tug Valley area, saying that bills have been passed to businesses and individuals in both Mingo and Pike counties.
According to Mingo County Sheriff’s Department Cpl. Norman Mines, the Matewan, Delbarton and Williamson areas seem to be where the counterfeit bills are turning up, including two in Matewan that led to the arrest of an individual.
Dennis Graham Gearles, 21, of North Matewan, allegedly used a counterfeit $100 bill to pay a Giovanni’s Pizza delivery person for a food order that amounted to approximately $30, receiving $70 cash as change. Upon arrival back at the business, the cashier used a marker that will identify counterfeit currency, which produced a positive result. Gearles is also accused of attempting to pay for items he intended to purchase from Hatfield’s Carry-Out with a counterfeit $20 bill, but it was marked and identified as fake at the time and was refused.
Upon questioning, the defendant is said to have admitted that he had knowledge the bills were counterfeit when he used them for payment for goods.
Gearles was charged with a felony count of counterfeiting and a misdemeanor charge of obtaining goods under false pretenses, and was arraigned before Mingo County Senior Status Magistrate Kim Blair. He was taken to the Southwestern Regional Jail, where he remains on a $12,000 bond.
“We are asking anyone that has knowledge of who may be distributing this counterfeit currency to contact us and provide the information,” Mines said. “We don’t need your name. All we are interested in is what you may know that can lead to the arrest of those responsible.”
So far, the sheriff’s department (Mines or Chief Field Deputy Sgt. Joe Smith), the West Virginia State Police (Trooper Douglas) and the Williamson Police Department (Police Chief Barry Blair and Patrolman Marcum) are investigating cases that involve counterfeit cash.
The Secret Service has been contacted concerning the flow of fake cash circulating in the local area and, according to Mines, have offered their services. Mines said he was informed that a counterfeit $50 bill had been accepted at a restaurant in Pikeville, Ky., and was identified as fake by the bank, after the nightly deposit was made.
“Be alert when you make a purchase anywhere,” Mines said. “If a bill looks fake, ask that it be checked before you leave the business. Not all counterfeit bills are marked and identified, and once you leave the premises, it becomes your problem, especially if you attempt to use it elsewhere.”
Mines said he is hopeful that the public will step up and help solve this crime.
Contact the sheriff’s department by calling 304-235-0300; the Williamson Detachment of the state police at 304-235-6000 or the Williamson Police Department at 304-235-2570.