Wauwatosa businesses were among those taken in by counterfeit bills that federal authorities say four Milwaukee men were passing in the Milwaukee area.
The U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday charged the men—Steven G. Luster, 49, and his son Stevon M. Luster, 20; Abraham T. Scull, 28, and Antonio L. Jenkins-Gates, 30—with possessing, selling and passing more than $25,000 of counterfeit U.S. currency.
The charges follow a long investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, working with local law enforcement agencies throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.
The case against Scull and Jenkins-Gates involves the passing of counterfeit bills in Wauwatosa and Menomonee Falls, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the case against the Lusters involves incidents in Wauwatosa, West Milwaukee, Franklin, Pleasant Prairie, Greenfield, Brookfield, New Berlin, Waukesha, Fond du Lac, Menomonee Falls, Grafton, Germantown, Delafield and Glendale.
The men are accused of bleaching $5 bills and reprinting them into higher-denomination bills, usually $100s, and then either using them to make purchases throughout Southeastern Wisconsin or selling them to other people who used the bills.
Outlined in the complaints against them are times when the men, or people who purchased the money from them, including confidential sources, used the bills at Walmart and Shopko in Sheboygan; Walmart in Germantown; McDonald's in Menomonee Falls; Target stores in Greenfield, Milwaukee and West Milwaukee; Kohl's in Brown Deer; Petsmart in Grafton, McDonald's in Belgium; and to purchase a vehicle in Hales Corners.
Information on the locations, types and amounts of transactions in Wauwatosa and Brookfield was not included in the complaints, and the Wauwatosa Police public information officer could not be reached for comment.
However, during the course of the Secret Service investigation, scores of incidents of washed $5s faked up as $100s have been documented in Tosa police reports, and some of those clearly played into the federal indictments.
In fact, more than a year ago, in November 2011, the chief of detectives for the Wauwatosa Police Investigative Bureau, Lt. Dennis Davidson, called the practice "rampant."
"It's all about the Benjamins," Davidson said at the time. "There are other methods being used, too, but the main problem is the bleached $5 bills altered to look like $100s.
"It is rampant, not just here but throughout the metro area – really, throughout southeast Wisconsin and elsewhere."
The number of incidents of the type abated somewhat in Wauwatosa by mid-2012, but a few cases have continued to crop up until recently, when they seem to have ceased – likely because of the investigation closing in.