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The Crime of Passing Counterfeit U.S. Currency Carries Stiff Penalties

Even in the age of debit cards and online banking, paper currency is still an important part of the U.S. economy. This means counterfeiting money remains a significant problem for law enforcement officials in Texas and throughout the country. Despite continuing efforts to increase the security of U.S. paper currency, counterfeiting still happens on a daily basis. A 2014 article in the San Antonio News-Express said more than $150 million in counterfeit U.S. currency is seized each year by law enforcement.

How Counterfeiting Works

The News-Express noted that “about 60 percent of counterfeit money was produced by digital printing.” The Examiner in southeast Texas reported in 2014 that police in Beaumont, Texas, were dealing with numerous reports of counterfeit $20 and $100 bills. A local detective said whereas counterfeiting use to require expensive printing plates and a high level of organization, today’s counterfeiters “can use an HD scanner, get a copy of the bill and copy it. A lot of times they will print it on a sheet, all the same bill, and sell it.”

The counterfeiter’s goal is usually to convert their fake money into real dollars. A person can use a counterfeit $100 bill to buy an inexpensive item at a store, thereby converting worthless paper into valuable change. Counterfeiters may also buy more expensive merchandise and resell the items for genuine cash. Police have even said drug dealers and people dealing in illegal goods often use counterfeit dollars to scam one another.

Detecting Counterfeit Bills

Modern U.S. currency contains a number of security features designed to thwart counterfeiters. For example, the newest $100 bills contain a blue ribbon woven into the paper of the note. This ribbon displays either a series of 100s or bells depending on the angle it is viewed at. The $100 bill also uses color-shifting ink, portrait watermarks, and a second embedded thread, all of which are extremely difficult to counterfeit using ordinary production methods.

The Penalties for Counterfeiting

Anyone caught producing or intentionally using a counterfeit bill is subject to both federal and state criminal prosecution. In Texas, the forgery of any “money, securities, postage, or revenue stamps” is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. And under federal law, anyone who “falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United States” is subject to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine.

As you can see then, counterfeiting is a serious matter. If you have been accused of any crime in connection with counterfeiting or forgery, you need to speak with a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you require immediate assistance from a Houston counterfeit attorney.