Paper Money

Arrests made in U.S. currency counterfeiting operation in Peru

Authorities seized $15 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve notes in April 2020. (Shown are images from a 2018 seizure in Peru.)

Original images courtesy of MinterPeru.

On April 4, the United States Secret Service office in Lima, Peru, and the Peruvian National Police Anti-Counterfeit Group arrested two individuals for manufacturing counterfeit United States currency, trafficking in counterfeit currency, and organized crime.

The agency said in a May 8 press release that $15 million in counterfeit U.S. currency, an offset printing press, and ink canisters were seized. The operation began in February when the two agencies began an investigation into the reproduction and distribution of U.S. Federal Reserve notes. It included undercover phone calls, wire intercepts, surveillance, and purchasing of counterfeit U.S. currency, along with information provided by criminal associates.

Special Agent in Charge Brian Swain said, “These are trying times but that does not mean that the Secret Service will not continue their investigative and protective no-fail mission.” The defendants will be prosecuted by the Peruvian Justice System. The warrant was executed with extreme caution due to the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peru has long been known as more than just a hotbed of counterfeiting. It has been called the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of counterfeit U.S. currency, with at least one raid reported annually since 2012. One of the most famous was Operation Sunset in 2016, which, after 54 search warrants, led to 48 arrests and yielded the seizure of nearly $30 million dollars and 50,000 euros in counterfeit currency, and a trove of counterfeiting equipment.

The Secret Service was also in the news May 6, when Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill to move the Secret Service from the Department of Homeland Security back to the Treasury Department, where it originated in 1865 to combat counterfeiting. The proposal has the backing of the leaders of both parties in Congress and the Trump Administration.

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