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Fraudulent money sent by a Butte man’s Nigerian sweetheart — whom he met on the Internet — has been traced as the source of some counterfeit bills circulating around town.

This weekend the man, who thought the cash was legitimate, attempted to use fake $100 bills to wire money to his girlfriend. The cash was used at Albertson’s, Walmart and Safeway to purchase money wires to Nigeria.

Police say $900 of the fake money has been recovered. But, they suspect about $3,000 in $100 bills may have been used by the man.

Officers questioned the 33-year-old man after he attempted to use counterfeit money to buy another “MoneyGram’’ Friday night and was recognized by employees as the same person who passed fake bills previously, police said.

The man told authorities his Nigerian friend needed the money wired back to her in order to pay medical bills.

The investigation continues.

Police don’t believe the fake $100 bills are connected to a handful of $20 bills received by local businesses two weeks ago.

“It doesn’t appear to be attached to that,” Undersheriff George Skuletich said.

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In those incidents, someone used two counterfeit twenties to purchase items at Little Caesars pizza restaurant on Harrison Avenue. A worker noticed the bills were fakes after using a testing pen on them.

The next day, the Butte Family YMCA alerted police to another fake bill. A woman had used the falsified cash for admission fee to the gym, police said.

Skuletich said these two incidents are linked because the fake money had the same serial numbers.

Police say they have seen a total of eight bills used in Butte in the last two months, not including the hundreds. Other fake money had been used at a local casino. The cases remain under investigation.

Authorities urge businesses to be extra cautious with checking their bills in light of these incidents. Testing pens should be used along with enhanced scrutiny, Skuletich added. Oftentimes the counterfeit money is a tad smaller than real bills, he added.

If fraudulent money is found, it should be turned into police.

Contact Brandt at 406-496-5519 or angela.brandt@mtstandard.com.

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