ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Merchants on Historic Main Street in St. Charles are putting out a warning about a scam involving a $100 bill.
Two men just got caught allegedly pulling the scam over and over in the shopping district.
It was the typical scene on Sunday, October 20. People were shopping store to store. The two suspects blended in, buying small things like nail polish and earrings, and using a $100 bill for the purchases, police said.
The pair pulled the scam at least seven shops, merchants said. It worked at five of the businesses, according to police, netting them about $568 total.
Police said their scam failed at Grandma’s Cookies.
“Yes, I remember these guys,” said Larry Schneider, who was working at the cookie shop at the time.
Police and merchants said the would-be scammers spoke Spanish and used the language barrier to create confusion and sneak the $100 bill back from clerks, all while demanding change for their purchases, which included two sodas for $5.79 at the cookie shop.
“Like, very confusing,” Schneider said. “We had a line out the door. We had a lot going on. Then he hands me the $100 bill and then shows me his wallet. There’s was more than $100 in there. Then he grabs the $100 back and then in perfect English he says, ‘Give me $94.21 back,’” for a $5.79 purchase of two sodas.
Schneider didn’t fall for it.
Carlos Lem-Padilla, 42, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stealing and was sentenced to seven days in jail.
Luis Perez-Mendoza, 38, of St. Louis, was charged with misdemeanor stealing and being held on a $5,000 bond.
Surveillance photos circulated quickly among the stores and police caught the men before they made it to Kathryne Morschl’s store, Siostra Pottery & Gifts.
“Usually, it’s a red flag for me for a large bill to be used to make a small purchase. To me, that signifies either a counterfeit bill or some kind of scam,” Morschl said.
Merchants in St. Charles hope those elsewhere will now be mindful of the $100 bill trick.