Blowing Rock Police investigates larceny, counterfeit bills

Tucker Wulff, Reporter

A larceny involving the use of counterfeit currency occurred at the Gap Factory Store in the Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway shopping complex in Blowing Rock, and is one of multiple similar cases in the region, said Thomas Gunnells, the responding officer to the call. 

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Jan. 14, two unidentified black males entered the Gap Factory Store and attempted to return Gap retail merchandise for a refund. The return was denied due to a company policy that does not allow the return of retail items to outlet stores, Gunnells said. 

Later that day, the suspects returned to the Blowing Rock outlet store and purchased a variety of merchandise with counterfeit $100 bills, Gunnells said. 

According to North Carolina General Assembly General Statutes Article 21 Chapter 14-119(a), any person in possession of counterfeit instruments with the aim to defraud a financial institution “is guilty of a Class I felony,” which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 24 months. 

Article 21 Chapter 14-119(b) states that anyone in possession of five or more counterfeit instruments with the aim to defraud a financial institution “is guilty of a Class G felony,” which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 47 months. 

The definition of larceny varies among states, but it generally means the taking of property without the use of force, said Jeff Holcomb, professor of criminal justice.  

“One thing we know is that much property crime is generally not planned,” Holcomb said. “So, it’s crime of opportunity.” 

In regard to the Gap outlet larceny, “there’s actually several crimes going on there,” Holcomb said. “Their bigger problem is not the larceny,” but instead is the creation or use of counterfeit bills. 

The Blowing Rock Police Department was notified of the incident Jan. 15, after the bills were deemed counterfeit by the outlet’s general manager, said Gunnells. 

These two suspects have committed this crime at multiple other Gap stores in this region, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, Gunnells said. The most recent crime occurred in Charlotte, Gunnells said. 

The larceny at the Gap outlet did yield camera footage of the suspects. The images from the camera footage were submitted to the North Carolina State Government, but did not provide any further identification of the suspects because the images were not clear enough, Gunnells said. 

Blowing Rock PD is now looking for any new leads that might illuminate more information on the suspects, Gunnells said. 

“If Charlotte or Georgia or South Carolina has information on the guys, hopefully, we can cooperate with them and get the information they got,” Gunnells said. 

A crime alert was issued Jan. 15 by High Country Crime Stoppers asking the public to call Crime Stoppers or Blowing Rock Police with any information that may help with the investigation. 

“It’s always trying to see who else was involved, what other information they have,” said Lieutenant Nathan Kirk of Blowing Rock PD. 

Tips from the public can be sporadic both in frequency and accuracy, Kirk said, but “it’s always a blessing to receive (tips).” 

“What it seems like these guys are doing is they are working in a circuit,” Kirk said. “They are getting the property, turning it back in and getting the money from that as a refund and then spending more counterfeit money.” 

The case is still under investigation, and Blowing Rock Police hopes to, with the help of the community, determine primary suspects and prosecute. 

“We got our technology, but we also need other people out there in the community,” Gunnells said. 

According to the Crime Stoppers crime alert, “anyone with information on this crime or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 828-268-6959 / 828-737-0125 or the Blowing Rock Police Department at 828-295-5210.”