HASTINGS, Mich. (CAP) - Five children ranging in age from two to eight have been charged with passing fake three-dollar bills in a counterfeit ring that police say may have included as many as nine children and stretched across four towns. Federal agents announced the arrests following a raid early yesterday morning.
"This was very well organized," said Timothy Kimmler, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service's Detroit field office. "When we caught them, the kids had already made bills ranging in denomination from one to five dollars and were working on a batch of six-dollar bills."
Authorities were tipped to the counterfeit scheme when the reputed ringleaders, 6-year-old Patricia Lipper and her 4-year-old sister Maureen, tried to use a fake three-dollar bill to purchase a beverage at a neighbor's lemonade stand. Police arrested the two when the Detroit Crime Lab was able to match the crayon used to create the bill with crayons found in the playroom of the Lipper household.
"We can confirm at this time that we did confiscate a number of crayons, including Pine Green and Olive Green," Kimmler said. "The raid also netted a number of other counterfeit goods, including Little Tykes Chit 'n Chat cell phones, a pair of toy scissors, and a handful of coloring books."
Kimmler said the Lipper girls' 2-year-old brother Joshua was also arrested when authorities found him in his bedroom eating one of the fake bills. "It was pretty well sozzled," Kimmler noted, "but we could tell by the backwards '2' in the corner that it was one of the fakes."
However, Kimmler said Joshua did not manufacture the false money and "was merely a pawn in this operation."
According to police reports, the Lippers may have given some of the counterfeit cash to their older cousins, who are believed to have tried to use the bills to bribe their parents into letting them have dessert despite not finishing their dinner. Authorities say the arrests will be forthcoming once the pair is done being grounded on unrelated charges.
"These children are victims, not criminals," said Trish Parker of the SouthWest Michigan Parents group. "You can't just send your kids off to color without hovering over them to make sure they're staying in the lines. If they ask to borrow the play scissors, as a parent you need to know why."
According to Parker, the Lipper parents should have seen this coming. Parker said that last year, then 5-year-old Patricia was under investigation for cutting holes in cardboard boxes and trying to sell them as shoes. No charges were ever filed because the evidence was recycled along with other household items.
Authorities said the others named in the counterfeit ring indictment are either being sought or are in custody.
- CAP News Staff