Nationally, the Secret Service seized nearly $81 million in fake money and arrested 2,424 people in the fiscal year that ended in October. Bills come in from other countries – Peru is a particularly big contributor – or from local criminals who shift to counterfeiting as an alternative to the drug trade.
Malcolm D. Wiley, a Secret Service agent in Atlanta, holding seized counterfeit currency.
Making fake money remains a thriving enterprise in the United States, as it has been since before the Civil War.
A few counterfeit artists still engrave metal plates and search for soft paper that approximates the government’s proprietary blend. Others soak money in a chemical soup, rubbing off ink to create $100 bills out of fives.
But in more than two-thirds of all cases, criminals manipulate scanners, printers and toner ink to create money where once there was none.
Heath J. Kellogg, 36, whom the United States attorney’s office here described as a self-taught graphic artist, is in the latter category.
Until federal agents arrested him in an Atlanta suburb in November, he was what people in his criminal circle called “the printer” – a man suspected of pumping more than $1.1 million in fake $50 bills into the Southern economy.
As counterfeiting cases go, Mr. Kellogg’s is not a record-breaker. (Neither was one last year in which a 26-year-old Atlanta man used solvents and a printer to turn $5 bills into $100 bills, making $1.2 million in fake money.)
Still, a counterfeiting ring in which one man prints more than $1 million in fake money is no small deal. And catching Mr. Kellogg required a few lucky breaks for law enforcers, months of old-fashioned detective work and an ill-fated decision not to bail someone out.
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