Eleven-year-old Jeremy Ryzhonkov was conned out of a full day of his lemonade stand’s profits when a scammer asked him to make change for a fake $100 bill.
The adolescent entrepreneur was selling lemonade, popcorn, soda, cotton candy, and various refreshments out of a cooler in Everett, Washington, on June 15 when a man approached him to buy $15 worth of snacks. According to the Everett Police Department, Ryzhonkov exhausted all his profits and had to dip into his allowance money in order to break the bill, but became suspicious soon after the man left, as the color and texture of the C-note felt off. The young man went to a nearby gas station to double check, and the clerk confirmed his fears.
“Nope, not real,” Ryzhonkov said in an interview with local news.
Rhyzhonkov was filming his stand and caught the interaction on camera. Local police released a still image from the footage identifying the suspect, and are still investigating the case; two men are seen on tape, but only one is considered a suspect by the Everett Police Department.
“While our detectives work hard to bring closure to every case,” Everett PD said in a statement, “this case struck a particular chord with them, and they want to do everything they can to get justice for Jeremy and catch this counterfeiter.”
Ryzhonkov runs several business ventures, according to The Washington Post, including a seasonal lawn mowing and snow shoveling business, reportedly to “grow his empire” and send some money to support his ancestral homeland of Ukraine. The scam forced him to shut down his stand.
The police shared the story publicly on Thursday. Shortly afterward, Amy Steenfott, a neighbor of the Ryzhonkovs, started a GoFundMe to recoup Jeremy’s losses. As of Wednesday, the campaign was orders of magnitude past its initial goal of $250, as an outpouring of community support ballooned the fund to more than $25,000.
“This proves that there are so many great people in this world and we far surpass the bad ones,” Steenfott wrote in an update on Sunday.
Rzyhonkov reportedly reopened his stand last week, albeit with new anti-counterfeit policies; he now only deals in small bills and is far more diligent about checking them.