Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Counterfeit $100 Bill from The Wynn

Way back in June 2006, I cashed out for about $1000 at the cashier cage in the poker room at the Wynn casino. As they were being counted out, I noticed one of the bills didn't look quite right. If I had just said something then, I certainly could have gotten a different bill in place of that one. I said nothing.

The next day I decided to inspect the bill more closely. It says it was series 1996, so I pulled out another 1996 $100 bill to compare it. It was immediately clear that not only was this bill counterfeit, but the quality of the counterfeiting was appallingly low. United States currency has all sorts of security measures, and this bill fails on all counts. It makes me laugh now to look at it because it's so obviously fake and whoever made it clearly just didn't even try to overcome the security measures (yes, I still have the counterfeit and am looking at it right now). I mean, I noticed something wrong with it from behind the counter at the Wynn cashier cage, even though I only glimpsed it for a split second as it was being counted out for me. Upon further inspection, I found the paper was far too stiff, the colors faded. Where the designs got even a little bit fine, the details were mushed together or caused moire patterns on the counterfeit bill. Most damning was the absence of the security thread and the water mark. Out of curiosity I checked for the tiny red and blue fibers that all U.S. currency has, and those were missing too. As if that weren't enough, Joe bought me a pen designed to change color depending on whether the bill is real, and, of course, it failed.

After showing the bill to my friends for curiosity's sake, I decided I'd report the bill to the Secret Service, who are supposed to handle counterfeiting as well as protecting the president (not sure how those seemed related enough to give both responsibilities to a single agency). I figured this might get the Wynn casino in some trouble (after all, it is a federal offense to pass counterfeits), and that they might be interested to know they had obvious counterfeits slipping through their system, so I decided to stop by the poker room first and let them know. I also thought there was some outside chance they would reimburse me my $100, but I wasn't expecting it. So, in late July, with my ridiculous looking $100 bill stuck in my back pocket, I walked up to the customer service desk at the back of the Wynn poker room to tell them about the bill.

"Hi, who do you think I could talk to about the fact that I received a counterfeit bill from your cashier cage?" I expected I might be referred to this employee's boss or some other authority figure, or be given a number to call. Instead I was directed to talk to a cashier at the cashier cage! There, I could discuss this issue with the people who are at the bottom of the casino staff's pecking order except for the janitorial staff. Well, I figured, at least a cashier might be able to direct me to someone who might actually be worth speaking with. So, I walked the 10 feet over to the cashier cage.

"Hi, I received a counterfeit bill from here. Who do you think I could talk to about this?" I asked. The cashier looked at me like I was insane.

"We can't help you with that."

"I just thought you might like to know," I said. For some reason the cashier was suddenly angry with me.

"You know, it's a federal offense to even be carrying a counterfeit bill," she sternly informed me. The bill was still in my back pocket, out of view, and I had made no indication that I actually had it on hand.

"Um, okay," was all I could think to say, and I turned and left. As I walked back to my car, I tried to figure out what had just happened. Was this really how the casino wants their employees treating their guests in this situation? Their only concern seemed to be to get me to leave them alone as soon as possible. I was suddenly angry then, and I turned around and marched back to the poker planning to complain. I was a regular player at the casino, why would they treat me like this? When I got to the poker room, I looked around and couldn't decide who to approach or what to say. My plight suddenly seemed petty, and I didn't quite know how to explain the problem or what I wanted them to do. After milling about looking upset for about 5 minutes, I finally just went to my car and drove home.

On August 4th, I finally got around to calling the Secret Service. At this point I was upset with the Wynn and was hoping my report would initiate an investigation. A person at the Secret Service actually answered my call. She told me it was after hours (it was 5:37 pm), but that she could take some information and they would call me back. I gave them my name and number, the denomination of the bill in question ($100), whether I work for a company (no), and where I got the bill (Wynn casino). Then it was just a matter of waiting for them to call me back.

Well, I didn't hear from them that week, or the next, or the next month, or ever. Today, five months later, I finally got around to calling them back. Assuming that the Secret Service was a streamlined organization, I expected them to ask me for some of the same information I gave them last time. Instead, the line of questioning was entirely different. In fact, they never even asked me where I got the bill. Instead, I was asked, "are you bringing the bill in?" as if this was simply a matter of personal preference and that I had already decided. Not having any idea what my alternatives were, nor exactly what it meant to bring the bill in, I replied, "what do you mean?"

"Oh, do you have a bank account?"


"Okay, well, you can bring the bill in to a bank and they will process it for you. How do you know the bill is counterfeit?"

"It looks wrong and doesn't have the security features. Also, I used one of those pens that change color for counterfeits."

"Hmmm, those pens don't work. Can you hold? I'm gonna go ahead and run it."

"Sure," I replied, not knowing what "run it" meant but liking the sound of it. Now we're getting somewhere! When she came back on the line, she asked me to read her some of the numbers on the bill, which I guess she entered into a computer. Yes, the bill is most likely counterfeit, she told me. I should bring it to the bank so they can process it. I think they will give me some sort of form to fill out. That was the end of the cconversation.

I think it's very likely that the cashiers themselves were the ones introducing the bills into circulation. They handle bills all day long, so they would certainly have noticed such a strange looking and feeling bill as they counted it out, which they do twice before handing it to me. Also, the casinos seem pretty rigorous about inspecting all their bills as they come in, and if they got it from the bank, the bill would have had to have slipped through their nets as well. This all seems implausible considering how absurd the bill looks and how many filters it must have passed through. Much more beleivable to me is that the cashiers have contacts outside the casino for whom they distribute these counterfeits. Then they could slip them in after the other bills had all been screened. This would also explain the hostility of the cashier when I returned a month later. She certainly seemed inexplicably eager to get me to leave, and nobody seemed to want me to take this information to higher ups at the Wynn.

I am really hoping that the form has some place to report where I got the bill. Frankly, though, I am very disappointed with practically every step of this ordeal, and I have lost faith in anybody even attempting to "solve" the crime, let alone listen to what I have to say. I'll give you an update if there is anything more to add. In the meantime, I am inclined to continue avoiding the Wynn.


Lauren said...

Oh man, that sounds like a pain in the neck. I wonder what the bank will do, though. I mean, I'm getting the feeling that you got screwed out of $100.

I think you're being a bit harsh with the cashier you talked to. Frankly, if I got the feeling that someone was looking to get rid of a counterfeit bill, I'd want to get as far away as possible, especially with my job on the line. I actually took a look at what the Secret Service had to say, and it said things like "DO NOT TOUCH IT!!!1111" or "FOR YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY..." or "DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN DANGER." Just reading it made me feel anxious. If someone came up to me with a plagerized homework or paper, I'd want them to leave as well.

Seriously though, I've pretty lost faith in world after the 0.002 cents thing with Verizon. Managers do not necessarily get promoted because they are smart or good at their job.

Keith said...

Yeah, I knew from the moment I saw the bill that I was almost certainly out $100. Nobody is interested in paying people $100 in exchange for fake $100 bills.

I don't blame the cashier for not wanting to deal with the actual counterfeit bill, but never did I make any indication that I expected her to. Why would they refer me to the cashier if the cashier is utterly terrified about dealing with the situation?

The bottom line is that I was defrauded by the Wynn or its employees, and then treated rather disrespectfully when I simply tried to inform them. As a result, I feel some antipathy toward the Wynn.

Lauren said...

Yeah, I have to agree that the Wynn is not on my top list of casinos to visit. That is a shame, because it is SOOO shiny!! I actually think you're right that the cashier who passed you the bill was probably in on some kind of ring.

Anyway, I'm impressed that you're still updating your blog. Everyone else seems to be slacking. However, I was wondering why you pretty much hacked off all of the links on the side.

Keith said...

All but the first links in each section were removed when I switched to the "New Blogger," which is required. I'll put them back at some point.

Do you have any other issues with the Wynn, or just this?

Lauren said...

Haha, no I guess I don't really have any other problems with the Wynn except:
1. When driving by it, it can be blinding bright (though I admit I like shiny things).

2. I had to email Ken Wynn multiple times before he would give me his credit card number for Alumni Weekend (this was before I knew who he was and his relation to Steve Wynn).

Still, I hoard money like Scrooge McDuck and I'm not trying to get a fake bill of any denomination, much less a $100. That's definitely enough for me to steer clear. Unless the spa is really good.

adspar said...

I can't think of many businesses I'd expect to have less integrity than a casino. If it wasn't for the rather bizzare combination that you're both an upright guy and you spend a huge amount of time in casinos, nothing about your Wynn experience would be so shocking.

Not that I don't have sympathy for someone who is put off by this kind of irresponsibility, but having taken some time away from the gambling world, this ordeal seems so standard.