Feds join Rock Hill counterfeit case after $2,000 in fake money found

The Rock Hill Police Department is working with federal authorities to investigate a counterfeiting operation discovered during a traffic stop early Tuesday.

Scott Joseph Caldwell, 23, was charged with two counts of forgery and driving under suspension, according to jail records. A judge set his bond at $30,000 Tuesday afternoon.

Officers pulled over a Mercedes Benz on the 1100 block of Mount Gallant Road about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday after noticing the car didn’t have a rear tag displayed, according to a police report. The driver, Caldwell, told officers there was nothing illegal in the car.

Inside the car, police found $1,800 cash and “quite a bit” of counterfeit money that amounted to about $2,000, according to Detective Keith Dugan, a financial crimes investigator with the Rock Hill Police Department. Police also found a 9 mm handgun in the console with the money.

“He talks very little,” Dugan said of Caldwell. “He says they just magically appeared in his vehicle.”

A box in the car contained a paper cutter and 25 pieces of paper of a $20 bill, all of which had the same serial numbers as the bills in the console, police said. Caldwell said he was a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Caldwell told police all of the items in the car were his and that his female passenger knew nothing of the items.

“There’s definitely someone else involved if not two or three,” Dugan said. “At this time, that part’s pending. He has not given us any information on who else he’s doing this with.”

It’s rare for police to find currency and items to manufacture it together, Dugan said. He added that Caldwell’s operation was “very simplistic,” and the quality of the notes was poor.

“We generally see this more around the tax season,” Dugan said. “That way if you stop somebody like this, their excuse is, ‘That’s my tax money. That’s why I have a large amount of notes.’”

The Rock Hill Police Department is working with the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the case “because of the propensity for more forgeries to occur,” Dugan said. The Secret Service typically has a threshold dollar amount to determine when they get involved in a local police case, and Dugan said they’re more likely to investigate someone who is “actively manufacturing” bills as opposed to simply in possession of them.

“They’d like to work with all local law enforcement on all cases,” he said. “They’re strapped, they’ve got a lot of activity going on.”

Dugan said during Caldwell’s bond hearing Tuesday that the case will “most likely be transferred” to the Secret Service to continue the investigation.

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala