A full-scale investigation into counterfeit rare U.S. coins
produced in China is being launched in Chicago by U.S. Customs and
Border Protection agents after a package containing bogus U.S. Trade
dollars was seized April 20 at the International Mail Branch at O’Hare
The 361 counterfeit coins seized were bound for a recipient at an
Illinois address, who was expecting to sell the fakes online over the
eBay auction site, according to Customs and Border Protection officer
Brian J. Bell, who serves as the public affairs liaison in Chicago and
who spoke with Coin World April 22.
As a result of the seizure, Bell said CBP agents stationed at
international mail facilities in major U.S. cities have been notified
of the seizure and to be on the lookout for similar packages.
“We’ve notified other facilities,” Bell said. “You may start
seeing more seizures coming from China [to] prevent them from entering
the market. We’re going to do our best to stay on top of this.”
Bell said O’Hare handles direct mail flights from China.
CBP is constantly screening arriving international mail and is on
the lookout for any type of contraband, counterfeit or prohibited
items being shipped to the United States that can harm the community
or take advantage of the unsuspecting buyer, according to the agency.
CBP officers and agriculture specialists are stationed at
International Mail Facilities located throughout the country.
“Legitimate traders are being duped into buying these coins
believing they are genuine,” said David Murphy, CBP director of field
operations in Chicago. “We strongly recommend buyers or any consumers
to be aware and use caution when making these types of purchases on
Bell said the investigation being initiated by U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement will look into whether the intended recipient
of the intercepted package has knowingly purchased and sold similar
counterfeits before on eBay or through any other venue. Bell said
investigators will also be working with eBay officials to examine the
eBay activity of the package’s intended recipient.
Bell said April 22 that CBP had been contacted by the intended
recipient about the status of his package after it did not arrive at
his address when expected. Bell said the intended recipient was
notified that CBP was looking into the matter and would alert him to
the package’s disposition. Bell said the intended recipient indicated
he planned to sell the contents of the seized package on eBay.
Bell said the package and its contents will remain with CBP as
part of the investigation and used by prosecutors to determine whether
state or federal criminal charges may be forthcoming. Bell said U.S.
Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago had not yet been notified of
the seizure and commencement of an investigation.
CBP officers became suspicious when they noticed anomalies while
conducting x-rays of the heavy package bound to an Illinois address
from China. Bell said the intended recipient’s address was in English,
while the shipper’s address was in Chinese. He said investigators will
be seeking translation of the Chinese address to determine the name
and location of the shipper.
The 361 counterfeit coins seized are dated 1873 through 1878, the
years the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City Mints struck
Trade dollars intended for circulation.
Bell said a sample counterfeit coin was sent for analysis to CBP
Laboratory and Scientific Services in Chicago where it was determined
to be silver-plated brass, not .900 fine silver, although the weight
was close to the weight of a genuine coin. The package was seized
based on the laboratory results, Bell said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency
within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the
management, control and protection of U.S. borders at and between
official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and
terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S.