YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Thanks to an alert McDonald’s clerk, Saddle Brook police charged a Connecticut couple in connection with a Columbus Day counterfeit cash spree at area businesses that involved four juveniles.
Lonnell Warren, 43, was being held on $25,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with two counts of forgery and with employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime.
Also arrested was Warren’s wife, 42-year-old Kristina Higgins-Shabazz, on various counts of forgery in connection with today’s McDonald’s incident.
Both are from Derby, CT.
Warren and Higgins-Shabazz employed four youngsters in the crimes — three of them his children and one hers, Police Chief Robert Kugler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
“Pictures of the suspects were hanging at the registers and, bingo, they made the match,” Kugler said. “The power of the media prevails once again.”
Police responded to the noon call from the Saddle Brook Center on Route 46 after an alert McDonald’s cashier flagged a $10 bill that Higgins-Shabazz tried to pass as bogus, Kugler said.
When the cashier refused to accept it, Higgins-Shabazaa left with three other people.
The cashier immediately called police with a description of their van, which officers stopped moments later.
“We are still determining what is counterfeit and what is not,” while trying to uncover the extent of the operation, Kugler said.
The U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency in the investigation, the chief said.
The search began nearly two weeks ago, when managers from Donnagio’s Italian restaurant, the Medicine Shoppe pharmacy and Dunkin Donuts all gave police bogus $10 bills that they said were given to them that day.
A cashier at the CVS Pharmacy on Fairlawn Parkway also turned over a $100 bill from that same day.
The customers all appeared to be in their late 20s to early 30s — except for a youngster with one of the women who appeared to be about 12, Kugler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time.
“The kid came to the Dunkin Donuts counter with a soda and a $10 bill just as the woman was handing over a ten for her purchase,” the chief said.
Kugler was somewhat prescient when he added: “It is our hope that by distributing these video images, someone may be able to assist us in identifying the suspects and, at the same time, alert businesses to be careful accepting currency that may look real but turn out to be worthless.”
Warren was deemed responsible for the Donnagio’s and Dunkin Donuts incidents.
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