It’s probably a safe bet that a day or two after the first money appeared, the first counterfeiter appeared, pushing fake money because it’s cheaper than working for it. Today, counterfeiting is a major problem, partially thanks to better printing technology available to the public, which makes it easier for crooks to pass phoney bills.
Major counterfeiting operation busted in Atlanta
The New York Times reports a major counterfeiting operation, run by a man referred to as “The Printer” by accomplices, has been busted by federal agents. Heath J. Kellogg, of Atlanta, Ga., a “self-taught graphic artist,” was arrested in Nov. 2012 after almost a year of trying to track him down.
Authorities in the area were aware of a counterfeiter passing fake $50 bills, unusual since counterfeiters typically prefer $20 and $100 bills. After one of his accomplices was caught and turned state’s evidence, they tracked down Kellogg.
He is accused of passing up to $1.1 million in fake bills. That large number of bills isn’t unique, nor is it an isolated case for that area. He was also the second major counterfeiter busted in that area in as many years; last year, another Atlanta-area counterfeiter was arrested and accused of passing $1.2 million in fake bills.
Crime gone high-tech
In recent years, the government has introduced a number of technologies into bill printing to foil counterfeiters. Granted, the Federal Reserve has done everything in it’s power to destroy the worth of those bills by printing a lot of money for “loans” to banks at 0 percent interest and thereby punishing everyone but the super rich with inflation. That said, the crooks are constantly learning how to foil anticounterfeiting measures.
Kellogg would print both sides of the bill on different sheets of paper with green ink, tint them yellow, apply ink that shows up under ultraviolet light and print a watermark on the back of the “bill.” Then he’d glue them together. His bills’ texture and serial numbers were the only dead giveaway; anyone not paying much attention might not notice it.
According to ABC, a lot of counterfeiting, some of it quite elaborate and nearly passable is easily made using common office equipment. Newer bills are devised all the time as security companies come up with new technologies to foil counterfeiters but as Daily Finance points out, crooks will just counterfeit older styles of bills that are still in circulation.
Huge national problem
Since the equipment to make counterfeit bills is so commonplace, shutting down counterfeit operations is usually only possible after bills have begun changing hands. While a lot of it is captured, a lot isn’t. The New York Times reports the Secret Service, which handles counterfeit currency in addition to being the federal government’s Praetorian guard, seized roughly $81 million and made 2,424 arrests in the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2012.
Counterfeiters don’t always create counterfeit bills for personal use; many sell them at less than face value for others to use. Kellogg, for instance, was selling $1,000 parcels of bills for $250. Gangs often traffic in counterfeit money for use in the drug trade.
Small-timers are the ones typically printing for personal use, which is where vigilance on the part of citizens or retail stores pays off. For instance, police in Pocatello, Id., arrested two people on Jan. 2, that were printing counterfeit $100 bills in their apartment with printing equipment, according to KPVI, a Pocatello ABC affiliate. Neighbors tipped off authorities. In Fredericksburg, Md., a woman was arrested on Jan. 6, trying to pass a $100 counterfeit bill at a grocery store.