HALLOWELL — The owner of a downtown market here said a man used a fake $100 bill to buy beer Friday evening, a report that’s drawn the attention of city police.

Boynton’s Market owner Ruth Lachance said the fake bill was taken by mistake and she is using the experience to teach her employees a valuable lesson and warning other downtown shops.

“I just wanted all the other merchants downtown to know,” Lachance said. “I just don’t want other businesses to get stuck with it like (we did).”

The bill has a number of discrepancies compared to legal tender. The bill has the word “copy” printed on the top left and bottom right corner, the right eyebrow of Ben Franklin is a noticeably higher than normal and text beside Franklin’s face that usually says “The United States of America” is swapped for “For Motion Picture Use Only.”

Lachance identified a suspect on surveillance footage. He was wearing sunglasses at the time. She said the bill felt like an authentic bill, making it difficult for the employee to discern it from a real one.

“It is fake money,” she said. “If you put it in the (cash register) drawer, it passes as a $100 bill.”

Lachance, who has background as a graphic designer, was surprised that a fake bill that was the about the same size as a real bill was allowed to be printed. She said prop money is usually one-third larger or smaller than regular bills.

The Secret Service, the entity in charge of investigating the counterfeiting of currency in the U.S., confirmed that play money legally printed is usually a bit smaller or larger than real cash.

David Watson, resident agent in charge at the Secret Service’s Portland office, said most prop money comes from overseas. He said while printing the bills and selling the bills is not inherently illegal, spending them or printing knowingly and with intent to use them as currency is illegal. If the suspect didn’t know he was using fake money, he would not be in violation of the law.

“Any paper, even if you just scribbled a note on paper, that is tendered in transaction with intent to spend it as cash is counterfeit,” Watson said.

Watson said the Secret Service usually is called in when a larger amount of counterfeit money is found. For example, when three Portland men were arrested last month in Scarborough with drugs, a handgun and $3,000 in counterfeit money, Scarborough police said the Secret Service would be involved in the investigation.

Prop or play money that is designed to be authentic can be purchased on Amazon.com for about $10 for 100 bills.

Lachance found the bill while counting money on Sunday and tried to report it to police. She said police were tied up with supervising the annual Kennebec River float, which attracted more than 500 people, and wanted to see surveillance images before filing an official report.

Hallowell police Chief Eric Nason said the report came in around 2 p.m. Monday, when Lachance presented an image of the suspect. Nason said Tuesday morning the matter is under investigation, but police have a good lead on the suspect. The lead, he said, came from community input from posting the image on the department’s Facebook page.

Lachance said the employee was dealing with a rush at the time of the fraudulent purchase, but did properly check the identification of the man suspected of making the purchase because he purchased alcohol. She said she was using the experience as a teaching moment for her other employees and did not plan to take any action against the employee.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “We all make mistakes. Let’s not pretend we are perfect.”

A photo of the bill accompanied a Sunday text post on the market’s Facebook page. Lachance lamented the timing of the incident because, as reconstruction is snaring traffic on Water Street, sales at Boynton’s are down.

Lachance said counterfeit money never has been used at Boynton’s since she has owned it, but she did receive a call from Camden National Bank a few years ago warning local business about counterfeit $50 bills in the area,

Lachance said customers have suggested buying counterfeit detection pens. She has resisted buying them, she said, because they usually disappear when you need them.

Lachance and her husband, Don, reopened the market in 2011 after it closed briefly. It previously had operated at the corner of Water and Union streets since 1936.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

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Twitter: @SamShepME