Skip to Content

Phony money scam: Man arrested for using prop bills to buy lottery tickets and cars

A man is in custody after allegedly using counterfeit money to make purchases ranging from lottery tickets to cars. The suspect, identified as 29-year-old Justin Weeks from Desert Hot Springs, was apprehended last week by Palm Springs police, shedding light on a disturbing trend involving the use of prop money for real transactions.

According to authorities, this incident is just one of several occurrences that have taken place in the town over the summer. Fake $100 bills that resemble genuine currency at first glance, but are actually made for use in movies or on stage, have been making their way into various transactions that sometimes total thousands of dollars. Police are urging residents to remain vigilant and to learn how to identify these counterfeit bills to avoid falling victim to scams.

Weeks, the alleged perpetrator, was caught attempting to buy lottery tickets with the fake cash at a local liquor store. Alerted by a suspicious transaction, the store clerk promptly contacted the police. Upon investigation, authorities found Weeks in possession of more than $31,000 worth of prop money. That amount of fake currency could reportedly be purchased online for less than $80, police said.

In the lottery ticket incident, police discovered Weeks had also acquired a car using $2,000 worth of fake bills. He also had a stolen electric scooter.

Palm Springs resident James Owens said he was targeted in a similar scam by Weeks earlier this summer in which he had sold his 1983 pickup truck to Weeks for $3,200. Unbeknownst to Owens, Weeks had paid using counterfeit currency. He only realized the deception after Weeks left with the car, noticing the telltale signs of counterfeit money upon closer inspection.

"You do a double take at the money and you're like, this can't be happening," Owens said. "While I was counting it, I was like, something doesn't feel quite right with this paper."

Weeks had previously been arrested in connection to Owens' pickup truck incident but was subsequently released. Authorities now allege that he continued his counterfeit cash operation, leading to his most recent arrest.

Police emphasized the importance of being aware of the distinguishing features of counterfeit bills. "The texture of the money is different, the watermark is different. So we just want the public to be aware of the scam," explained Lt. Eric Larson of the Palm Springs Police Department.

A significant indicator of counterfeit money is the presence of the phrase "For Motion Picture Purposes."

If you believe you've been a victim of this scam, contact Palm Springs Police or Valley CrimeStoppers at 760-341-STOP.

Tips to Inspect Cash

  • Be sure to check the bottom right-hand corner of any bill of $5 or more for color-shifting ink. If it’s authentic, the number shifts from green to black or from gold to green, when tilted.
  • Check the watermark. It should only be visible when you hold the bill up to the light. If there is no watermark, or if it’s visible without being held up to the light, it’s most likely counterfeit.
  • Take a close look for any blurry borders, printing, or text on the bill. If you can’t read the microprinting under a magnifying glass, it’s most likely counterfeit.-Inspect the texture of the bill for raised printing, which is hard for counterfeiters to duplicate.-Look for tiny red and blue threads woven into the fabric of the bill. If they appear only on the surface level, the bill is likely fake.
Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.


News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content