Prosecution of Counterfeit Money Possession and Passing Counterfeit Monies

By John Teakell
Attorney-at-Law
Dallas, Texas

I. OVERVIEW

Prosecutions in federal district courts in the United States (U.S. District Courts) for violations of counterfeit currency are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, and usually are investigated by the federal investigative agency known as the United States Secret Service (“Secret Service” or “USSS”). These federal violations start when persons create or print counterfeit currency (money or cash) to imitate genuine currency authorized and printed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Some counterfeit currency printers have sophisticated operations that produce counterfeit currency bills that are difficult to distinguish from genuine United States currency. Others can produce counterfeit bills from home printers that are more readily distinguished from genuine currency.

Commonly, these charges include:

  • Possession of counterfeit currency (sometimes known as “funny money”);
  • Manufacture of counterfeit currency;
  • Passing counterfeit currency or sale of counterfeit currency;
  • Possessing counterfeit currency plates or electronic images for counterfeiting;
  • Conspiracy to manufacture, possess and pass counterfeit currency.

These federal violations, or “counterfeit cases” as these are sometimes called, are found in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 470, et seq. Currency is referred to as “obligations or securities of the United States” in these federal statutes.

II. COUNTERFEITING CHARGES OFTEN USED IN INDICTMENTS

A. Making, Altering or Counterfeiting Obligations or Securities of the United States

  • “Obligations or Securities of the United States”
  • Title 18, United States Code, Section 471
  • “Manufacturing” or “making” counterfeit currency is commonly charged under this statute, as the statute wording clearly sets forth the violation. It is sometimes plead in the Indictment as:
  • “…with intent to defraud, falsely made, forged, and counterfeited obligations of the United States…”

B. “Uttering Counterfeit Obligations or Securities”

Title 18, United States Code, Section 472

Possessions of counterfeit money and sales of counterfeit monies are usually prosecuted under this statute. This statute reads:

“Whoever, with intent to defraud, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish or sell, or with like intent brings into the United States or keeps in possession or conceals any falsely made, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”