Waco police and local agents with the United States Secret Service are warning of an increase in counterfeit $50 bills being used in McLennan and Bell counties.

Counterfeit cases have increased overall in the area, and the passing of fake $50 bills has tripled since September, Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge R. Scott DeFord said.

"In September, we had 59 cases of these counterfeit $50s, and by January, it had jumped to 149 cases," DeFord said. "The cases involving the $50s are still popping up, but that is only between 10 to 20 percent of the counterfeit bills that are actually out there."

In one recent counterfeiting incident, police arrested Michael Anthony Johnson, 51, of Waco, last month on charges connected to counterfeit $50 bills in Waco. Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Johnson was stopped by street crimes officers, and it was found he had at least three fake $50 bills.

A local convenience store reported it had received counterfeit money in the last week, and police used surveillance video to determine Johnson had passed at least three fraudulent $50 bills, Swanton said.

The investigation remains ongoing, and additional arrests are possible, he said. Johnson remained in McLennan County Jail on Wednesday on a third-degree felony charge of forgery and outstanding charges of theft, discharge of a firearm in a municipality and unlawful possession of a firearm.

DeFord said secret service agents will continue to work with local law enforcement in the apprehension of suspects. He said residents should look closely at all cash and notify local law enforcement or the U.S. Secret Service with any concerns.

More information about security features of currency can be found at www.uscurrency.gov or www.secretservice.gov.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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