Sheriff Craig Webre announced the arrest of Jacob Chouest (age 21) of Lockport for printing counterfeit bills and other charges. Agents with the Lafourche Parish Drug Task Force had been investigating the use of counterfeit bills throughout the area. Through the investigation, they developed Chouest as a suspect and obtained a search warrant for his residence. On the evening of Thursday, March 3, agents made contact with Chouest and conducted the search warrant at his residence where they discovered several printers and various items commonly used in the printing of counterfeit money. They also found several copies of $20 bills, including some which had not yet been cut into individual bills. They also discovered drug paraphernalia and a shotgun with obliterated serial numbers. Chouest was arrested and charged with two counts of Monetary Instrument Abuse, Possession of Firearms with Obliterated Number, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. He was also charged with Aggravated Assault after deputies learned he allegedly pointed the shotgun at another man during a verbal altercation earlier that day. He was transported to the Lafourche Parish Detention Center and booked accordingly. His bond is set at $12,300.
Investigators say some of the counterfeit bills match serial numbers of other counterfeit bills in active cases where fake bills were used at local businesses. Investigators are currently following up on those cases, and other arrests may be forthcoming.
Sheriff Webre says employers should ensure anyone handling cash at a business is trained in proper procedures for identifying counterfeit bills and reporting them. In the absence of such procedures, Sheriff Webre has issued these guidelines to consider as a best practice:
- Always use a counterfeit detector pen immediately at the point of sale/transaction. Even if the bill appears to have passed a previous test, it’s always best to use the pen anyway. Counterfeiters often simulate the mark of a counterfeit detector pen as another way of disguising a fake bill. A bill should be checked immediately upon being presented instead of waiting until the end of a shift to check all bills. It’s always best for an investigation to begin as soon as possible after any crime has occurred, including the use of counterfeit bills.
- Examine the bill in a well-lit area. Counterfeit bills look very real in low light, but may appear much brighter or darker in color when viewed in a well-lit area. Check for any manipulations in the paper, such as white dots, especially on the back side of the bill. Also, the texture of a counterfeit bill will usually feel very different from a genuine one.
- If a counterfeit bill is discovered, return it to the customer and call the Sheriff’s Office. Businesses should develop a policy to deal with the receipt of counterfeit bills, but in the absence of such a policy, employees should return the bill to the customer and inform them it is a fake bill. The employee should then inform the customer that they are calling the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the bill and ask the customer to stay and cooperate with the investigation.
While these are the best practices to help investigators, Sheriff Webre said no one should put themselves at risk if they believe a confrontation could turn violent. “If you feel threatened, or you are scared to confront the customer for any reason, simply take mental notes of the subject’s overall appearance, clothing and vehicle, and call us after they have left,” said Sheriff Webre. “Be sure to check with your employer about your business’ policy for handling situations, but always contact us as soon as possible after an incident has occurred.”
Sheriff Webre says the guidelines are similar for anyone not working in a business setting. “Anytime you receive cash, it is wise to examine the bills,” said Sheriff Webre. “Conversely, Webre said, if you are confronted for using counterfeit bills of which you had no prior knowledge, be sure someone at the business contacts the Sheriff’s Office, or place the call yourself. If you are innocent and cooperate in the investigation, we will be able to investigate the origin of the fake bill,” Webre said.