During a three-day period from May 15 to May 17, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 24 packages containing counterfeit currency worth a total of $685,000. All of the shipments originated from China and were addressed to various American cities.
Even though the confiscated shipments were “going to be used as prop money, it is a violation of federal law to reproduce currency. Violators can be arrested.” The currencies were in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. A shipment heading to The Bronx in New York contained nearly one thousand $100 bills. A package headed to Louisville contained 103 bills worth $50 and 101 bills worth $20.
“Our CBP officers are always on the alert watching for any type of prohibited shipments that come through the IMF… By stopping these shipments we are protecting our financial institutions, businesses, and the public,” Shane Campbell, Area Port Director-Chicago, said in a statement.
The fake currencies were handed over to Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Secret Service for “further investigation.” CBP officers usually seize around 40 to 50 packages of illegitimate goods every day. Annually, CBP officers process almost 57 million packages.
History of illegal shipments from China
For the fiscal year from October 2019 to September 2020, Chicago CBP seized over 10.6 million dollars in counterfeit currency, according to a press release. The money was being routed through the International Mail Facility (IMF) at Chicago O’Hare.
In total, 306 fake shipments were confiscated by IMF officers, most of which were seized during an operation called “Show Me the Money,” which aimed to curb illegal trafficking of currency. Over 280 of the shipments came from China, many with missing watermarks, repetitive serial numbers, Chinese letters, poor-quality material, and without embedded fibers.
However, Chicago is not the only place in America where counterfeit money from China is being seized. In January last year, CBP officials seized $900,000 worth of U.S. currency from a commercial rail shipment in Minnesota. In May 2020, Cincinnati CBP confiscated $252,000 in fake money from Shenzhen. Then, in June 2020, CBP officers in Milwaukee seized $351,000 in counterfeit currency from Shanghai.
According to the U.S Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the Department of Treasury, possession of fake U.S. currencies with fraudulent intent is a “violation of Title 18, Section 472 of the United States Code,” and is punishable with 15 years of jail time, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
On April 6 of this year, the Chicago CBP announced that they had seized over 100 shipments of forged currency worth over $1.64 million during the previous three months. Most of the American coins, bills, and Euros came from China.
Just 10 days later, on April 16, the CBP seized 281 shipments mostly from China, including two shipments with a total of 1,589 counterfeit $100 bills. The shipments were headed to Texas and Georgia. On April 21, Chicago CBP conducted four seizures, collecting 6,345 counterfeit $1 coins and 283 counterfeit $2.50 coins. Most of the coins were slated to be sold as collector items.
“Counterfeiting is a lucrative business which is often used to finance illegal activities such as trafficking in human beings, drugs, and even terrorism,” Mike Pfeiffer, Assistant Area Port Director-Chicago, said in a statement.
With reporting by Arvind Datta.