By Ken MacLeod

BOSTON (CBS) — Investigators are searching for men who are allegedly using fake money south of Boston. Police in West Bridgewater say the phony $100 bills could now be circulating in other towns as well.

Rick Patel says it certainly won’t put his family liquor store out of business. “Still we lost a hundred dollars,” he laments.

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Surveillance cameras at Jessy’s Liquors in West Bridgewater captured the whole thing. The guy who came in that night asked for help finding a bottle of wine, and Patel obliged. But then the customer paid with a Benjamin – a one hundred dollar bill. “It looked like an old one,” Patel says.

Counterfeit $100 bill that was originally a $1 bill (Image credit Freetown PD)

More importantly, it would turn out to be counterfeit, just like the bills used at coffee shops, drug stores, and at least a dozen places from Raynham to Fall River over the last two weeks. In each instance, police say the star of the counterfeiters’ scam, was actually an old, one dollar bill – that’s been bleached. That’s right. Detectives say the ones are essentially bleached, and then reprinted with the markings of a C-note.

If you look closely at some of the bills now in evidence, you can see the dollar ink didn’t dissolve completely, leaving a visible shadow. “And I felt like it was suspicious,” says Patel. “I felt like something’s not right.”

Counterfeit $100 bill that was originally a $1 bill (Image credit Freetown PD)

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But when Patel tested it with his counterfeit detection pen, it passed, because the paper itself is authentic – but too old to have some of the more modern security features woven in. So Patel gave the crooked customer change for his phony hundred, and the guy vanished.

Counterfeit bill used at Fall River restaurant (WBZ-TV)

WBZ showed the fake to some customers. “It looks pretty good,” Jackie Johnson told us. “If I was a cashier I probably would just take it. It would fool me.”

Police believe only a fraction of the bogus bills have been reported so far.

People of interest in counterfeit bills investigation (Image credit West Bridgewater PD)

West Bridgewater Police are circulating pictures of two suspects – the guy who passed a bill on surveillance video at the liquor store, and a likely accomplice who has done the same elsewhere. The pair are believed to be driving a light colored, four-door sedan.

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Rick Patel says he’s learned his lesson. “Next time I’m not going take it, that’s for sure,” he said. As a reminder, he’s taped a likeness of the funny money to his counter – right next to the cash register.

Ken MacLeod