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 user 2009-01-05 at 10:43:50 am Views: 72
  • #21104
    Counterfeiting is thriving with ink jet printers
    Green, a Secret Service agent in Kansas City, Missouri, displays a
    stack of counterfeit money. Each year they find about $300,000 in
    counterfeit money in the metro area, and there have been recent
    outbreaks of fake 50s.

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The
    Secret Service agent in Kansas City peered hard at a counterfeit $100
    bill, ran a finger over it and grimaced in disgust.It was bad, ugly
    work.”Too slick, too,” said Charles Green, special agent in charge.More
    counterfeiters are using today’s ink jet printers, computers and
    copiers to make money that’s just good enough to pass, he said, even
    though their product is awful.In the past, he said, the best American
    counterfeiters were skilled printers who used heavy offset presses to
    turn out decent 20s, 50s and 100s. Now that kind of work is rare and
    almost all comes from abroad.Among American thieves, the 22-year
    veteran said sadly, “it’s a lost art.”But as art fades, greed goes on.
    Ink-jet counterfeiting is thriving.

    Part of the problem, Green
    said, is that the government has changed the money so much to foil
    counterfeiting. With all the new bills out there, citizens and even
    many police don’t know what they’re supposed to look like.Moreover,
    many people see paper money less because they use credit or debit
    cards.The result: Ink-jet counterfeiting accounted for 60 percent of
    $103 million in fake money removed from circulation from October 2007
    to August 2008, the Secret Service reports. In 1995, the figure was
    less than 1 percent.And counterfeiting is a constant problem that gets
    worse during a slow economy. The 15 Secret Service agents in Kansas
    City collect an average of $300,000 in fake bills in the metro area
    each year, he said.But Green shook his head. Some fake bills nowadays
    are for $5 and $10 — even $1.

    “It’s crazy.”
    Green pointed to
    a picture hanging in his downtown conference room. It’s a photo from a
    1980s Lenexa, Kan., case that involved heavy printing presses and about
    2 million fake dollars.”That’s what we used to see,” he boomed. “That’s
    the kind of case we used to make.”Agents discovered then that someone
    had purchased such equipment and a special kind of paper, and it all
    went to the Lenexa shop. Then they secretly went in there with a court
    order and planted a tiny video camera on a Playboy calendar.They
    streamed video 24/7 for days, stormed in with guns drawn and sent bad
    guys to federal prison.Green’s voice sank as he described today’s
    sad-sack counterfeiters.

    These people call up pictures of bills
    on their computers, buy paper at an office supply store and print out a
    few bills. They cut the bills apart, go into a store or bar and pass
    one or two.Many offenders are involved with drugs, he said, often
    methamphetamine. If they get caught, so little money is involved that
    federal prosecutors won’t take the case.State prosecutors might convict
    them and even get some time behind bars, but the charge is usually
    something like forgery. So it is not clear they were counterfeiters if
    they do it again.The Secret Service is lobbying some states to create
    state charges of counterfeiting. Federal and state authorities need to
    work together more as printers and copiers get better and thieves gain
    skill, Green said.

    President Abraham Lincoln created the Secret
    Service in 1865 to deal with a crisis: one third of the nation’s money
    was counterfeit.Now the fake rate is .02 percent, or one in every
    10,000 bills, Green said, but that could easily get worse.He cites the
    odd case of Thomas Crowl, a 60-year-old Merriam man who was
    experimenting with high-quality ink-jet counterfeiting when he paused
    to rob an Overland Park, Kan., bank.He might have made a breakthrough,
    Green said, might have been a contender.

    But when busted for the
    robbery, Green said, Crowl asked police if they wanted to go to his
    home and see how he really made money. They did and found boxes of
    bills, along with experiments that shined light through fake bills
    mounted on glass.He might have been getting close to a quality product,
    Green said, or he might have been as bad at counterfeiting as he was a
    bank robbery. A federal judge this year sentenced Crowl to 57 months
    for bank robbery and manufacturing money.Most counterfeiters are hard
    to catch. They can always claim they got the money from someone
    else.The most common story, Green said, is “won it in a dice game.”

    problem, he said, is that the recent changes in real money can confuse
    people. Some funny money contains features that aren’t on the real
    thing, and few people notice.Newer bills now include things like
    color-shifting ink blotches, a new watermark and a security thread.In
    the $50 bill, for instance, that thread is a slender embedded plastic
    strip that runs vertically by President Ulysses S. Grant’s portrait. In
    it, you can see tiny writing that says “U.S.A. 50,” and the thread
    glows yellow when held under ultraviolet light.Some businesses stick
    bills under a light detector to check for that, but Green placed a
    counterfeit bill under the light and its stripe, too, glowed yellow.

    crooks used a surface paint to set off the light, but Green was
    unimpressed.”Look at the size of that stripe,” he said. “It’s huge.”He
    put the fake bill under a lighted microscope. The dot spatter pattern
    of the ink jet printer obviously was not the sharp ink of the real
    thing. The seal wasn’t right, either.Green put a real bill under the
    microscope and grinned like a proud father.”Look at that — that’s a
    real seal — so much cleaner and brighter,” he said. “You can see the
    ink just laying on top of the surface.”