Counterfeit currency, or currency produced without legal sanction of the government and in deliberate violation of U.S. law, is a growing problem in today’s society. The U.S. Secret Service was originally organized for the primary purpose of combating the rise in counterfeit American money. Creating and / or possessing counterfeit currency is vigorously prosecuted at both state and federal levels.
New York state law dictates that a person is guilty of Forgery in the First Degree when, with the intention of defrauding, deceiving, or injuring someone else, they falsely make, complete, or alter one or both of the following:
- Part of an issue of money, stamps, securities or other valuable instruments issued by a government or governmental instrumentality
- Part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against a corporate or other organization or its property.
Forgery in the First Degree is a class C felony, and a conviction can result in a 1-15 year prison sentence. Possessing counterfeit money is prosecuted as Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree, which is also a class C felony. A person is guilty of this offense when they knowingly present counterfeit currency to another person in a fraudulent attempt to acquire goods or services with it.
Forgery crimes involving currency are prosecuted and punished vigorously by state and federal authorities, given their impact on commerce. In these types of cases, a defendant needs to consult with an experienced New York criminal defense attorney before making any statement to law enforcement officers.
- Criminal possession of stolen property
- Enterprise corruption
- Falsifying business records
- Grand larceny
- Offering a false instrument for filing
The federal counterfeiting law has several provisions that impose a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 for counterfeiting U.S. securities and obligations. Possession of stones, plates, and other items used in the production of counterfeit currencies carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. If the defendant’s crime resulted in a financial gain or loss to someone else, they may be fined up to double the amount gained or lost. Putting parts of two or more notes together to create is punishable by up to 10 years in a federal prison. Counterfeiting gold or silver bars or coins over 5 cents can draw a 15-year prison sentence.
Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to knowingly commit an illegal act can all be presented as defenses. If charged with possessing counterfeit currency, a person can argue that they did not know that the currency was forged.
In August 2014 James Hines II, 34, was arrested at the New York State Fair for using more than $300 worth of counterfeit $20 bills to pay vendors. Hines, who’s a resident of Troy, was charged with possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of a controlled substance: the latter charge arising from his alleged possession of synthetic marijuana. He was arraigned in Geddes Town Court and sent to the Onondaga County Justice Center.