A sharp cashier at a Key Largo business helped the Sheriff’s Office catch a couple passing fake $100 bills Thursday.
At 3 p.m., Detective Barney Sajdak heard over his police radio a notice to be on the lookout for a vehicle occupied by a couple involved in attempting to pass a fake $100 bill at Mother Ocean Consignment at the 99 mile marker of the highway. The clerk called the Sheriff’s Office after a woman gave her a $100 bill to pay for a purchase; the cashier recognized it was fake, gave it back to the woman, and then called to report it. The vehicle – a black Ford Ranger truck – left headed southbound on the highway with a man and a woman inside.
Det. Sajdak spotted a similar vehicle parked in front of a hardware store at the 92 mile marker. He pulled in and contacted the driver, 70 year old Francisco Montes-Quinones of Hialeah Gardens, Florida. The detective asked the man where his wife was, but the man refused to answer. He then asked the man if he had any money and if so, could he see it. Quinones opened his wallet, revealing a number of bills, including several that were a different color and had a different feel to them. In addition, in checking the serial numbers, the detective noticed all the serial numbers were identical. More of the fake currency was later found above the sun visor of the truck, in an envelope.
Quinones was detained; his wife, 52 year old Mariela Carvajal-Perez, then exited the Island Décor store nearby. She was carrying a shopping bag. At that point, Deputy Matt Koval had arrived on scene to assist, so Det. Sajdak went into the store to talk with the owner. She confirmed Perez had just purchased an item using a $100 bill and had received $78.50 in change. She produced the $100 bill which was identical to the others found in Quinones’ wallet.
More charges may be pending. Investigations are continuing into their connection with other reports of fake $100 bills passed at Upper Keys businesses in recent weeks.