Man tries to use ‘movie money’ to buy truck

Gary Harris knew something wasn’t quite right when he held the money in his hands.

The $100 bills had looked real enough as they were counted out, six stacks of 10, facedown on the hood of Harris’s white 1993 Nissan pickup.

The colors seemed right for the old Ben Franklins — black and green on crisp cream paper. Holding the bills faceup in his hands, Harris could tell something was off.

They seemed thicker than he remembered. Franklin’s face seemed angrier.

And then he saw it.

In the upper right corner of each bill was written, “For Motion Picture Use Only.”

“I guess it was one of those things, too good to be true,” Harris said Tuesday.

Harris had been on his way home from the store Monday evening when a man, sitting on a bicycle at Blackburn and Pecan streets, approached him about buying Harris’ old pickup.

The man asked how much Harris had paid for the truck and offered to double it, but Harris declined.

“I told him no, it’s the only vehicle I’ve got, and I’ve got two kids at home,” Harris said. “Then he raised his offer by a thousand.”

Harris reluctantly agreed to talk to his family about it.

The man followed Harris to his home a few blocks away and waited outside as Harris discussed the offer with his mother and brother.

When Harris came back outside to talk, the man took another look at the truck and offered $6,000.

Harris had bought the truck for only $1,000, he said.

The two struck a deal.

“But when he realized that I realized the money wasn’t real, he took off running,” Harris said. “He even left his bike in my yard and everything.”

Harris called Hammond police, who said they located Deshaun Andrew Williams, 20, 41281 Range Road, Ponchatoula, a few blocks away at Church and Pecan streets.

Officers brought Williams to Harris’ home, where Harris identified him as the man using the fake money, Hammond police Lt. Vince Giannobile said.

Williams was arrested on counts of attempted theft by fraud and monetary instrument abuse, Giannobile said.

That was around 6 p.m. Monday.

About two hours earlier, Hammond officers had recovered more than $10,000 of the same kind of “movie money” during a traffic stop, Giannobile said.

Passenger Steve Wilson, 24, 350 N. Barrone St., Ponchatoula, had the fake bills in his pants pocket when officers searched him during his arrest on outstanding warrants, according to the incident report.

No bills were found on driver Frank Cobb, 26, 42170 Deborah Street, Hammond, who was arrested on two traffic violations and resisting arrest, according to the report.

“We don’t know where the bills came from. We’re still investigating that,” Giannobile said Tuesday.

Fake money, including “movie money,” is available online at websites such as Ebay, but Giannobile said it was more likely the bills had been taken from the set of a locally filmed production.

Hammond and Ponchatoula have both served as the backdrop for several movies, including scenes from “The Butler” filmed in Ponchatoula in 2012.

“I don’t guess the movie industry claimed a loss on it,” Harris said of the fake bills. “They’ve probably got tons and tons of it.”

Police are asking anyone coming into contact with the fake money to call Hammond Police at (985) 277-5700 or Tangipahoa Crime Stoppers at (800) 554-5245.