Brookfield 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 Brookfield, Wauwatosa, New Berlin,West Milwaukee, Franklin, Pleasant Prairie, Greenfield, 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 Brookfield and Wauwatosa was not included in the complaints.
Brookfield Police Capt. Jim Adlam said, though, that dozens of instances of bleached $5s being passed have occurred in the city over the course of this investigation. He said that when phony bills are reported, the police investigate and file a report, but absent any suspects of their own, they forward the reports and the bills to the Secret Service.
"Very often," Adlam said, "the people turning in these bills don't even know when they got them. They're discovered later in accounting or at the bank.
"They (Secret Service agents) clearly have put together a case from a lot of incidents," Adlam said, "and, probably using the serial numbers on some of the bills we've given them, have traced these guys to some of our incidents.
"But they haven't informed us of any details on any of the specific dates or locations."