BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A homeless man is facing counterfeiting charges after police say he tried to buy a six-pack of beer with a phony $20 bill Thursday evening.
But Jason Langill’s lawyer says his client is the victim of a scam, after a man approached him and offered to buy his bag of clothing for $120, then paid him with funny money.
Police were called to the Los Amigos Market on Lafayette Street shortly after 6 p.m. by the owner, who said a man had given his daughter money that felt fake, Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a Salem District Court judge.
When she questioned whether it was, the man pulled out three more bills, which the clerk took from his hand. None of them had a watermark, police said. When the owner announced that he was calling police, the man fled in a Jeep Cherokee with out-of-state plates.
About an hour later, officers spotted a Cherokee with Ohio plates on Washington Street.
Langill, 42, a passenger, appeared to squirm, and the officers noticed two $20 bills on the floor of the passenger side. Those were also determined to be counterfeit, Prosniewski said.
Langill insisted that he’d only just discovered that the money was fake and described how a man had approached him and offered to buy his clothing.
But police are skeptical, noting Langill’s lengthy criminal record, which includes state prison time. They charged him with two counts each of possessing and passing counterfeit money.
Langill pleaded not guilty during his arraignment yesterday.
Defense lawyer Chris Beares told a judge that the only reason Langill ran out of the store and left the fake money behind was “he got scared.”
Judge Robert Brennan set bail at $1,000 cash, which Langill is not expected to make. If he is released, he is under a court order to stay away from Los Amigos.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 18.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.