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

On December 6, 2014 three individuals were suspected of passing over $600 in counterfeit U.S. currency at a Corpus Christie, Texas WalMart. Police say the suspects, two black females and a black male, entered the WalMart on the 3800 block of Highway 77 at different times and made purchases of less than $200, leaving with over $140 of real currency and over $600 of merchandise.

Kiitv reports that the trio arrived at the WalMart location sometime after 5:00 p.m. in a silver four-door vehicle and entered the store separately. Each suspect is said to have passed counterfeit $100 bills to pay for merchandise.

This is not the first incident where individuals were suspected of knowingly passing counterfeit U.S. currency in the local area. In fact, in early January of 2015, a counterfeiting ring was busted in Bowie, Texas. There, three people were arrested and over $2,000 in counterfeit US currency was found.

New technology has made counterfeit currency harder to detect. Some of these counterfeit bills even pass the pen test (a device used in the detection of counterfeit bills) since they are made with real currency but altered to change the denomination. As such, a person may be in possession of a forged bill unknowingly.

To be convicted of forgery in Texas, a defendant must have knowledge that the currency in their possession is in fact counterfeit, and intend to deceive and pass the bill off as authentic. Evidence of the intent to deceive may include:

  • An active role in manufacturing the counterfeit currency;
  • Expressing to others that the currency in one’s possession is in fact counterfeit; or
  • Attempting to pay off debts with counterfeit currency.

The Texas forgery statute makes it a criminal act to “issue, transfer, or pass,” forged currency. Forged currency is defined as any currency:

  • Made by an unauthorized person;
  • Engineered at a false time or location; or
  • That is a copy of an authentic bill when no such bill exists.

Penalties for Passing Counterfeit Currency

Any person caught passing counterfeit currency faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge; each counterfeit bill carries a separate charge. If suspected in the conspiracy of passing counterfeit currency a person faces up to a five-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

If you suspect that you may be in possession of counterfeit U.S. currency it is important that you contact the proper authorities and surrender the notes. You will likely be asked to provide information regarding how the counterfeit currency came to be in your possession. Examples of those questions include the identity of the person you suspect passed you the currency.

Forgery is a serious crime with serious consequences. If you are suspected of forgery it is important that you seek the aid of counsel. Contact our experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates. We will assist in your defense by protecting your legal rights. You may reach us by calling (281) 280-0100.