A foot pursuit and arrest of a Clark County man accused of passing counterfeit $100 bills at a Columbus Walmart this week was the result of well-informed businesses — and an uninformed suspect, police said.
Joshua J. Drenter, 18, of Sellersburg, was arrested on charges of forgery, a Class D felony, and resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.
At 5:19 p.m. Wednesday, officers were sent to investigate a report of fraud at the eastside Walmart, 735 Whitfield Drive, Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
Upon arrival, investigators learned that a man had attempted to purchase electronics, including an iPod, with five fake $100 bills, Myers said.
What the suspect didn’t know was that one day earlier, after a story appeared in The Republic that detailed how similar incidents had recently occurred at five Columbus-area retailers, both store personnel and local law enforcement were on high-alert for counterfeit money, Myers said.
“Since (the suspect) is from far south of here, he probably didn’t read the news that we just had a big case,” Myers said. “But after we got burnt earlier this month, the stores weren’t going to let this type of thing happen again.”
When the cashier examined the cash as instructed, she noticed the bills had a strange texture, suspicious printing and a fake watermark, which prompted her to notify Walmart loss-prevention specialists immediately, Myers said.
Video surveillance showed that when security employees attempted to confront the suspect after notifying police, he ran out a front entrance, across both the parking lot and 10th Street, and into Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, 3500 10th St., Myers said.
When the suspect was eventually found in the tire barn at Lowe’s, he ran outside and fled east on foot but finally surrendered to authorities when he came face-to-face with an Indiana State Police trooper, Myers said.
Drenter was arrested in the parking lot of the Centra Credit Union headquarters, 1430 N. National Road.
An examination of the phony bills indicates that they did not originate from a large-scale counterfeiting operation that was raided Dec. 10 on the east side of Indianapolis, resulting in three arrests, Myers said. One of those arrested, Timothy P. Deutscher, 35, resides in Columbus.
During initial questioning, Drenter said he unknowingly received counterfeit money by selling items over the Internet and only ran from Walmart because he didn’t need any more legal problems following a recent arrest for drunken driving, Myers said.
But after officers debunked his explanation, the suspect refused to cooperate further with investigators, Myers said.
Six hours after being booked into the Bartholomew County Jail, Drenter was released early Thursday morning on bond that had been set as a $15,000 surety or $1,500 cash, a jail spokesman said.
If convicted on the preliminary charges, Drenter could be sentenced to between six months and four years behind bars and face a fine of up to $15,000. However, formal charges, if any, will be determined by the office of Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash.
Since the crimes involve counterfeiting, federal charges could also be filed at a later date.