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Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Our Problem, Pal

American Scofflaw

The $60 Sam Volpe thought he had lost for good hardly rates among the biggest rip-offs we've covered.

But the story of his run-in with a Rockledge bank over some "funny money" is interesting, if not instructive. It may cause you to double-check any Benjamins -- or Andrews or Ulysseses -- you receive from a bank teller or automated teller machine.

On Thursday, June 4, Volpe visited his Washington Mutual branch at Barnes Boulevard and Murrell Road, just north of his Viera East home. The 83-year-old retired pipe fitter cashed a check for $300 and pocketed the dough for the weekend. On Friday, he stepped into a checkout line at a Publix store, also at Barnes and Murrell, and pulled out the first crisp $20 bill.

"The clerk held it up to the light and said, 'I'm sorry, sir. This is counterfeit,' " Volpe recalled. "I said, 'Doggone!' and went right over to the bank."

At the WaMu branch, a teller examined the cash Volpe said he had received there a day earlier and spotted two more phony 20s. She gave Volpe a photocopy of the three fakes, and said the bank would report them to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting.

Volpe was in no legal trouble. But the bank wouldn't replace his $60. He could appeal to a manager the next day.

"The first night, I couldn't sleep. . . . I just laid there and thought about how someone could burn me," Volpe said. "I sure hated to lose 60 bucks that way."

Volpe struck out with the manager that Saturday.

"She said: 'How do we know you got it from this bank? Once you walk out of this bank, you're responsible for the money.' "

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