Craigslist counterfeiter charged after chase

Adam N. Ruf

BETHLEHEM — After a wild car chase on Monday, Bethlehem Police arrested a Guilderland man — 29-year-old Adam N. Ruf — who they say had used counterfeit bills to buy merchandise on Craigslist.

The police investigation started after a Bethlehem resident in November tried to sell jewelry on Craigslist and received several hundred dollars in counterfeit United States currency, according to Commander Adam Hornick with the Bethlehem Police.

“Counterfeit is a federal offense, so anytime we see counterfeit bills, we advise the Secret Service,” said Hornick. The United States Secret Service was interested in this case, he said, because there were so many bills.

On Monday, Dec. 3, members of the Bethlehem Police Department and Secret Service set up the sale of more jewelry to lure the suspect, Hornick said; Ruf showed up for the meeting and agreed to purchase the item and once again turned over several hundred dollars in counterfeit currency to the undercover police officer conducting the transaction.

But as Secret Service agents and Bethlehem Police officers — Hornick declined to say how many — surrounded Ruf in his car to make the arrest, Ruf sped away, heading right toward a Secret Service agent.

His car did not make contact with the agent, who was not injured, Hornick said.

Ruf took off and police pursued his car through Bethlehem, Albany, and Rensselaer. Police stopped the chase in Rensselaer because of Ruf’s reckless driving, Hornick said.

“We started checking places he was associated with,” said Hornick. Within three to four hours, Bethlehem Police located Ruf’s car and Ruf at an “associate’s residence” in Guilderland, said Hornick.

He was taken into custody without incident and his car was impounded.

Hornick explained the charges against Ruf this way:

—  A total of 59 counts of first-degree felony criminal possession of a forged instrument, one for each counterfeit bill he passed;

— Felony counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, for the danger he wreaked with his car;

— Third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for using his car as a weapon against the Secret Service agent;

—  First-degree scheme to defraud, for passing fake bills;

— Two misdemeanor counts of petit larceny, for buying real property with fake money;

— Misdemeanor counts of third-degree unlawfully fleeing a police officer;

— Reckless driving; and

— Vehicle and Traffic violations of failing to obey a police officer, speed in zone, speed exceeding the state limit, and passing in a no-passing zone.

Hornick noted that these Vehicle and Traffic violations apply only to those in the town of Bethlehem; he noted that Albany and Rensselaer may press their own charges for the part of the chase that went through their jurisdictions.

Ruf was arraigned in Bethlehem Town Court by Judge Ryan Donovan and remanded to the Albany County’s jail without bail. He is scheduled to return to Bethlehem Town Court on Friday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m., for a preliminary hearing.

Hornick said the investigation is ongoing and Bethlehem Police are interested in hearing from anyone who may have been cheated by Ruf through similar Craigslist transactions. Victims are encouraged to call Bethlehem Police at 518-439-9973.

“We’re asking people to come forward,” said Hornick.

Counterfeit bills

Asked if Ruf had made the fake currency he circulated, Hornick said, “We don’t have anything to say at this point but our work with the Secret Service is continuing … If he’s not making them, where is he getting them in large quantities?”

About the quality of Ruf’s bills, Hornick said, “They’re not the best we’ve seen.” He added, “To people not familiar with them, they look real.”

A dead give-away that Ruf’s bills, which were in several denominations, were fake, said Hornick, was “a lot had the same serial number.”

Besides serial numbers, police look for several things when distinguishing real currency from counterfeit currency, including color-shifting ink, and a hologram in the lower right-hand corner of any but a one-dollar bill, Hornick said.

“If you hold it up to the light,” said Hornick, “you’ll see the silhouette of the president on the bill. If it’s a five-dollar bill, you’ll see Abe.”

He also said that inexpensive pens can be purchased at Staples or through Amazon that can help detect counterfeit bills. “It’s not fail-safe,” said Hornick. “It tests the quality of the paper.”

Safe transactions

This time of year, Hornick said, people are more likely to be selling and buying goods through internet sites like Craigslist. “With the holidays, people are buying gifts or they’re selling junk they don’t want to get money to buy gifts,” he said.

Transactions, he advised, should be made in a well-lit, populated area. He suggested making the transaction in a police-station or town-hall lot, where video cameras are present. He noted it’s unlikely someone would try something dishonest at a police station.

Hornick also recommended bringing along a witness to the transaction.

Finally, he advised keeping track of phone numbers, email addresses, and license plates of the people involved in the transaction.

“You could take a picture with your cell phone of the license plate and the person wouldn’t even know,” said Hornick.

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