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Honaunau man arrested on forgery charges

Updated: 
October 24, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — An employee at an Ocean View restaurant suspected a $100 bill passed to him last week to purchase an inexpensive meal was fake.

However, his suspicions were uneasily put to rest when a detection pen, used to determine if a bill is genuine by the mark it leaves on the bank note, cleared the bill given to him as legitimate.

However, when L&L cashier Hua Zhang held the bill to the light after the customer left, it was clear it wasn’t what it appeared to be.

“I called police the next morning because by then it was too late,” Zhang said.

L&L was one of several businesses in Ocean View where a suspect, later identified as Matthew Cummings, attempted to use a $100 bill to purchase items. Hawaii Police reported three instances where Cummings tried to pass the fake money — L&L was the only place he was successful.

According to the cashier at an Ocean View Spirit Gas station, Cummings attempted to buy fuel with a counterfeit $20 bill, which she didn’t accept. However, she said, she didn’t report the incident because she was at the end of her shift.

Cummings, 36, of Honaunau, was taken into custody Friday in connection to several reports of counterfeit money passed at businesses in the Kona and Ocean View areas on Oct. 10 and 17. Search warrants executed on Cummings’ vehicle, personal property and home found him in possession of counterfeit bills, photocopies of fake money, components used to create the counterfeit bills, an unspent ammunition round, and 198 grams of suspected marijuana.

One of the other Ocean View businesses Cummings allegedly attempted to pass counterfeit money at was at the Ocean View Market. Store manager Le’Ann Naboa said the suspect first tried at Ace Hardware unsuccessfully then next stopped at the market.

Naboa said Cummings tried to purchase alcohol with a counterfeit $100, however, an experienced cashier noticed the markings did not match.

“The 100-dollar bill had been printed on a 5-dollar bill,” Naboa said of the fake money. “They’re getting to be really good.”

Naboa said cashiers have to be vigilant when handling money because once it’s successfully taken in, there is nothing they can do about it.

In the eight years she’s been at the market, Naboa said, this is the most frequent attempts to use fake money that she’s seen. She speculated the increase to higher crime and drug use.

“People just looking for easy money,” she said.

First reports of counterfeit $100 bills surfaced on Oct. 10.

Police say Kona Patrol officers responded to a report of a counterfeit $100 bill that had been passed the previous day at a business establishment in Honalo. Officers also responded to reports of a counterfeit $100 bill that had been passed during this same time frame at a business establishment in Captain Cook and four counterfeit $100 bills that had been passed at a business establishment in Kona.

After reviewing video surveillance footage, officers were able to identify Cummings. On Oct. 18, officers found the 36-year-old in the Kealakekua area where he was taken into custody.

On Friday afternoon, detectives charged Cummings with four counts each first-deter forgery and fourth-degree theft. After executing a search warrant on his Honaunau home, Cummings was also charged with an additional count of first-degree forgery and third-degree promoting detrimental drugs.

His bail has been set at $130,000. Cummings is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in District Court on Wednesday.

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