An Ocala man who used a phony $100 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes at a Leesburg gas station and then tried to do it again the next day was arrested after being identified through security footage.
Shymiere Montese Howell, 27, was arrested Monday on a warrant charging him with two counts of uttering forged bills, checks, drafts or notes and single counts of petit theft (one prior conviction) and scheme to defraud. The warrant was issued May 31 in reference to the incidents, which happened Jan. 11 and 12 at the Murphy USA gas station, 1801 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.
A Leesburg police officer responded to the store on Jan. 11 and was told by an employee that a black male had used a phony $100 bill to pay for a pack of Newport cigarettes. The employee said she checked the man’s ID to verify his age and handed it back to him. She didn’t record any information and didn’t recall the name on the ID, according to the police report.
The officer obtained a copy of the security footage and took the counterfeit bill as evidence. An examination of the bill showed it had no security thread, no portrait watermark, no 3D security ribbon and no shifting ink. Furthermore, it was written on the note – to the right of Benjamin Franklin’s portrait – “For motion picture use only” and beneath that in smaller print was, “This is not legal. It is to be used for motion props,” the report said.
Police pulled a photo of the suspect from the video and sent it out to local law enforcement to see if anyone could identify him. The suspect had multiple distinctive tattoos, including a cross on his forehead and many tattoos on both arms, according to the report.
On Jan. 12, police were called back to the store after a male tried to pass another counterfeit bill. The store employee said it was the same man who presented the counterfeit bill the previous day. She said she told him she couldn’t accept the note and he left the business. Officers checked the area but were unable to find him, the report said.
The security footage from the second day confirmed the suspect was the same person from the first incident. Several Leesburg police officers were able to identify the suspect as Howell from previous interactions. In May, a new facial recognition program used by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office returned a 93 percent match for Howell, according to the report.
The warrant was issued days later and Howell was arrested this week. He’s being held in the Lake County Jail on $6,000 bond and will appear in Lake County Court on Sept. 12.