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I recall a U.S. Secret Service special agent telling me a few years ago that small businesses were particularly susceptible to receiving counterfeit currency.
"Passing bogus $20 bills onto small businesses is the best way a criminal can unload his counterfeit money," the special agent said. "Most small business people aren't suspicious, and they're not trained to spot the bogus bills."
Today, many small business people are more suspicious and nearly every retail business and restaurant uses a counterfeit-detecting pen to test the $20 and $50 bills they receive. Unfortunately, not all businesses are sufficiently trained or equipped to spot the more sophisticated counterfeit bills being made by counterfeit rings with state-of-the-art computers and printers.
Troy Stroud, 41, a member of a sophisticated California counterfeit ring, pleaded guilty this month to federal charges of conspiracy to forge counterfeit currency and distribute counterfeit currency. Stroud, a member of an alleged counterfeit ring who are suspected of making from $5 million to $6 million in counterfeiting bills over the past two years, was arrested along with other members of the ring by the Secret Service in May.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California, the five men were arrested in a counterfeit currency operation that used inkjet and laser printers to produce millions of dollars in bogus $100 and $20 bills.
An informant tipped the Secret Service to the huge criminal operation that was passing the counterfeit currency to Los Angeles area stores and fast-food restaurants. The Secret Service agents and the Los Angeles police sweep in and arrested the ring. Executing a search warrant, the Secret Service found a full-scale counterfeit currency manufacturing plant and nearly a quarter of a million dollars in completed counterfeit currency, as well as $825,000 in partially completed counterfeit currency.
Arrested along with Stroud, were Albert Talton, 44, David Goldberg, 35, Paul McCorry, 45, and Corey Nero, 38. Another man charged in the case, Earnest Alexander, 40, is wanted by the Secret Service. The charges of counterfeiting can carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison
The U.S. Attorney's office said that the counterfeit notes in this case are of particular concern as they have a remarkable passing history and range, and the Secret Service believes the counterfeit currency represents one of the most successfully passed notes made with inkjet technology.
"This is one of the largest, if not the largest, counterfeit currency rings we have seen in Southern California," said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brian. "Through fine investigative work, the Secret Service was able to uncover the perpetrators before even more honest businesses were defrauded by the passing of counterfeit money. Counterfeiting is a very serious crime as it damages our national monetary system, facilitates a host of other crimes and has the potential to compromise our national security."
Along with the Secret Service, the three-month investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigations, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"This case illustrates the merging of traditional crimes such as counterfeiting with advanced technologies that criminals so often use to commit financial crimes today," said Ray Maytorena, the Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service's Los Angeles field office. "Through partnerships, however, law enforcement continues to stay ahead of criminals by combining police techniques with hi-tech investigations."
This case also illustrates why business people ought to be truly concerned about counterfeit currency, and why they need to become more aware of the type of bogus bills being passed onto them in everyday business transactions.
To prevent being burdened with counterfeit bills, business people and their employees need to be more security-conscious, and they need to be trained in detecting counterfeit currency.