Suzy Mosher had never seen counterfeit money before, but she knew right away something was wrong with the $50 bill a woman used to pay for her hamburger meal.
"It was all crumpled up, and it looked like it had been colored," said the 19-year-old car hop at Sonic Drive-In, 103 N. Third St.
That was Thursday afternoon. Mosher showed the bill to her manager, and Sonic employees watched as the woman walked across Third Street to a room at the Jayhawk Motel, 1004 N. Third St. Police were called.
Officers checked the bill, determined that it was counterfeit and then knocked on the woman's motel room. Three women and a man inside the room agreed to let officers search the room, Police Sgt. Mike Pattrick said.
Inside police found equipment that could have been used to make counterfeit $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills, Pattrick said. He wouldn't identify the equipment. Some counterfeit money, marijuana and methamphetamine also were found, Pattrick said.
The four suspects were arrested and taken to the Douglas County Jail.
During the past month, police have been investigating the passing of counterfeit bills not only at Sonic, but also at El Mezcal, 804 Iowa, and Imperial Gardens, 2907 W. Sixth St.
In addition, a Lawrence woman reported recently that she had come into possession of a counterfeit $10 bill but didn't know where she had received it, Pattrick said.
"The bills were very crude and of low quality," Pattrick said. "Most of the bills had the same serial number."
Police called the U.S. Secret Service, which sent an agent to assist with the investigation, Pattrick said. The Secret Service normally investigates major counterfeit cases for the federal government.
Friday afternoon the Douglas County District Attorney's Office filed charges against the following suspects:
Matthew R. Ketcham, 27, 425 Miss., making false information (counterfeiting), conspiracy to commit theft with counterfeit currency, committing theft with counterfeit currency, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. His bond was set at $4,000, and he is to appear in court again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Isabel M. Ketcham, 23, Avondale, Ariz., possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond was set at $500. She is to appear in court again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Heather A. Ringera, 26, whose address was listed as the same as Jayhawk Motel, 1004 N. Third St., making false information (counterfeiting), conspiracy to commit theft with counterfeit currency, theft with counterfeit currency, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Her bond was set at $3,000. She is to appear in court again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
A fourth woman was released from jail Thursday night, and charges are pending.
Additional charges could be filed at a later date in federal court, Pattrick said.