They make the finest counterfeit money in the world. The U.S. just recovered $30 million worth
The Secret Service announced the largest successful seizure of operational counterfeit currency in the history of the agency. (Reuters) The Secret Service announced the largest successful seizure of operational counterfeit currency in the history of the agency. The Secret Service announced the largest successful seizure of operational counterfeit currency in the history of the agency. (Reuters)
The product is carefully created in rural facilities throughout the Peruvian countryside using cheap labor, then hoarded in stash houses controlled by violent gangs in Lima.
Once there, the goods are packed into parcels, loaded onto planes or hidden inside luggage, pottery, hollowed-out Bibles, sneakers, children’s toys or massive shipping containers bound for major U.S. ports of entry, such as Miami.
The product’s ultimate destination, according to the U.S. Secret Service, is generally New York, New Jersey, Boston and the greater Northeast.
It’s here, federal authorities say, that a few powerful organizations pass the product to splinter groups that control the streets, reaping huge financial rewards before authorities have time to react.
It’s an illicit trade that bears an uncanny resemblance to narcotrafficking, and while there is some overlap between the two activities, this “product” has nothing to do with cocaine.
But the profits created by smuggling the counterfeit currency known as the “Peruvian note” — generally considered the finest fake money on the planet — are just as staggering, if not more so, according to the Secret Service. Responsible for producing and distributing an estimated 60 percent of the world’s counterfeit U.S. notes, more fake American money comes from Peru than any other country, according to the Secret Service, which has been combating the currency’s rise since 2003.
“It’s very similar to the drug war,” said Jose, a Secret Service agent who leads the agency’s efforts to crack down on the trade in Peru and declined to provide his last name. “The modus operandi is very similar, and a lot of the smuggling routes and the hierarchy of organizations involved are very similar, as well as the execution.”
“A lot of these organizations are family-run,” he added. “Making a counterfeit note is a skill that’s been passed down. It’s an art, and the skill isn’t easily transferrable.”
Last week, the Secret Service announced its largest seizure of counterfeit currency to date, after recovering $30 million in fake U.S. bills and 50,000 euros piled in houses and apartment buildings in Lima.
Known as Operation Sunset, the massive effort involved 1,500 Peruvian National Police officers and resulted in a total of 54 search warrants and 48 arrests in Lima.
“Additionally six counterfeit plants were suppressed, eight counterfeit manufacturing presses seized and over 1,600 printing plates and negatives of varying denominations were found,” the agency said in a news release.