Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre-area law enforcement officers are investigating a counterfeiting operation - the counterfeiting of Christmas Cash.
"It is so sad - a program so vital to the community and somebody feels the need to circumvent the program," Havre Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Vandeberg said today. "It's like the Grinch that stole Christmas."
The Hill County Sheriff's Office and the Havre Police Department are investigating. Sheriff Greg Szudera and police Lt. Russ Ostwalt declined to comment further.
The program, organized by the chamber about 14 years ago, allows people to obtain short-term no-interest loans from participating local banks. The loan is issued in the form of paper money redeemable at participating local merchants.
Vandeberg said about $250,000 in Christmas Cash was spent in Havre last year.
Vandeberg said the Chamber was notified on Monday by a bank that it had received counterfeit Christmas Cash.
Of the 62 merchants in the program, Gary & Leo's IGA, Albertsons and Caveliers are no longer participating, Vandeberg said.
Adam Anderson, a manager at Albertsons, said the store might rejoin the program.
"I believe we would probably take Christmas Cash as long as we know it's not fraudulent," he said.
Doug Ross, owner of Caveliers, said he is still thinking about whether to rejoin the program.