Local News

Sebring man arrested on counterfeit charges

SEBRING - May 20 of this year turned out to be a busy shopping day for Douglas Robert McLean, 77, who has admitted to authorities that he passed counterfeit bills at numerous businesses in Highlands County, according to reports released this week. McLean, 9560 Williamsburg Drive, Winter Haven, recounted to Sebring Police detectives that on that day he left home with counterfeit bills and first visited the Wal-Mart in Sebring, where "he did not get a warm feeling about any of the cashiers, so he left without attempting to make a purchase." But apparently he got warm feelings at other businesses, as he told authorities he used counterfeit bills at Lowe's, Home Depot, McDonald's, Winn-Dixie and Publix, he told authorities. He used $10 counterfeit bills to buy a double cheeseburger meal and ice tea from McDonald's, toilet paper from Winn-Dixie and cantaloupe from Publix, he told authorities. The report did not say what he bought at Lowe's.
But his undoing came when he went to the Avon Park Wal-Mart and attempted to buy a $50 money gram, he told police. At that time, police say, he was detained after employees became suspicious. Five months later, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office arrested McLean on numerous charges related to passing counterfeit money, reports said. He was charged with five counts each of possession of a counterfeit bill with intent to distribute, uttering a forged bill, check or draft and petit theft. Records indicate that those may be just few of the incidents involving counterfeit bills. In Polk County, the Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating McLean on multiple incidents involving counterfeit money, but has not yet filed charges, said Donna Wood, public information officer. Bartow police also indicated he was being investigated in relation to counterfeiting incidents in that city, reports say. The initial law enforcement contact with McLean at the Avon Park Wal-Mart came after a clerk raised questions about the bills he provided to pay for a money gram. The manager of the store had received emails "from the Polk County Sheriff's Office pertaining to counterfeit activities being committed by McLean," a Highlands County Sheriff's Office incident report states. The initial report said that a Polk County detective who was notified of the situation contacted Highlands County authorities and asked that McLean be taken into "custody based upon the criminal offense that had occurred (and) due to his reoccurring activities with passing counterfeit currency in Polk County and other jurisdictions." The bills that McLean used to attempt to buy the money gram had the same serial numbers, "lacked the imbedded security features to indicate the validity of the currency," and didn't feel like real money, the report said. McLean told investigators that a friend of his used his printer to print the phoney money. He also told investigators that the friend "would borrow money from him, and not pay it back, so that is when McLean decided to start accepting the counterfeit money from (the other man) in an attempt to recuperate some of the money he lost (to the other man)," the report said. In some cases, McLean told authorities, he would buy items with the counterfeit money and later return that merchandise to get real cash. Sometimes clerks would suspect the money was phoney, but he and the other man "would act like they didn't know anything about it and the clerks would return or keep the money, but no one ever confronted him about the use of the counterfeit currency," McLean told investigators, according to the report. The other man and McLean also determined it was easier to create counterfeit currency from the newer rather than older money because it was easier to copy, the report said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834