Black’s Law Dictionary defines counterfeiting as: “To forge; to copy or imitate, without authority or right, and with a view to deceive or defraud, by passing the copy or tiling forged for that which is original or genuine. Most commonly applied to the fraudulent and criminal imitation of money.”
Title 15, Chapter 22, Subchapter III, Subsection 1127 of the U.S. Code gives us this definition: “A ‘counterfeit’ is a spurious mark which is identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered mark.” And a registered mark? It’s defined in the U.S. Code as “a mark registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office under this chapter or under the Act of March 3, 1881, or the Act of February 20, 1905, or the Act of March 19, 1920. The phrase ‘marks registered in the Patent and Trademark Office’ means registered marks.”
Have you been charged with the federal crime of counterfeiting? You should know that you’re facing the possibility of thousands of dollars in fines and many years in prison if you’re convicted. You need a solid defense against the charges, and you will find the man to build that defense for you in Lexington counterfeiting defense attorney Dan Carman.
Types of Counterfeiting
Counterfeiting has been around since men first conceived the idea of using an object like a coin or a piece of paper to represent money. If a criminal could fashion something close enough in appearance to pass as the real coin or paper script, he was in the business of getting something for nothing—committing a crime and often getting away with it.
Counterfeiting was evidently a problem even when our country was founded, based on its mention in the U.S. Constitution. Along with sections giving power to Congress to borrow money on the credit of the United States, the power to coin money and regulate its value, and denying power to the States to coin money, Article I, Section 8, Clause 6 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States.
Chapter 25 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code is devoted entirely to the crime of counterfeiting and forgery. Some of the types of counterfeiting our federal lawmakers have identified as punishable include:
- making, dealing, or possessing any counterfeit obligation (an example of an obligation is bonds) or other U.S. security, or making, dealing, or possessing items used to counterfeit by a person outside the United States
- making, forging, counterfeiting, or altering any obligation or other U.S. security
- uttering (putting into circulation) counterfeit obligations or securities
- dealing (buying, selling, exchanging, transferring, receiving, or delivering) counterfeit obligations or securities
- possessing, controlling, making, selling plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting obligations or securities
- possessing or selling impressions of tools used for obligations or securities
- making, altering, forging, or counterfeiting a bond, certificate, obligation, or other security of any foreign government
- uttering and/or possessing counterfeit foreign obligations or securities
- making, altering, forging, or counterfeiting foreign bank notes or bills
- uttering counterfeit foreign bank notes or bills
- connecting parts of different notes, either U.S. or foreign
- making and/or possessing counterfeit coins and bars
- making or possessing counterfeit dies for U.S. or foreign coins
- making, forging, or counterfeiting, or passing, uttering, publishing, selling, or bringing into the U.S. minor coins (pennies and nickels)
- making, issuing, or passing any coin, card, token or device in metal intended to be used as money, with intent to defraud, and using it in an automatic merchandise vending machine, postage-stamp machine, turnstile, fare box, coinbox telephone, parking meter, etc. that is designed to receive or be operated by lawful coins or other U.S. currency.
The chapter also directs that any counterfeit paraphernalia shall be forfeited to the United States, and identifies as a crime the counterfeiting, possessing, et cetera, of such financial documents as bonds and obligations (like notes, debentures, coupons, or instruments) of certain lending agencies; contractors’ bonds, bids, and public records; contracts, deeds, and powers of attorney; military or naval discharge certificates; money orders; postage stamps (U.S. and foreign); court seals, signatures of judges or court officers; seals of departments or agencies; ship’s papers; and the altering or removing of motor vehicle identification numbers.
Finally, Chapter 25 gives authority to investigate the offenses set out in the sections to the United States Secret Service, “in addition to any other agency having such authority.”
Penalties for Counterfeiting
The penalties—jail time and fines—vary, depending on which counterfeiting law the defendant is convicted of breaking.
A person convicted of counterfeiting U.S. obligations and securities can be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The same fine amount and prison term applies if the person is convicted of counterfeiting foreign obligations and securities, but if the person is found guilty of possessing plates, stones, and “other things” used to counterfeit foreign obligations, they can face up to 25 years in prison.
If the counterfeiting crime results in a financial gain or loss to someone other than the defendant, the defendant may face fines that amount to double the amount of money that was gained or lost when the crime was committed.
Persons found guilty of connecting parts of two (or more) notes together to make a counterfeit note face up to ten years in prison. A conviction for counterfeiting gold or silver bars or coins over 5 cents in value can result in a 15-year prison sentence, while the person convicted for passing or attempting to pass the counterfeit bars or coins will receive a shorter sentence, of five years. Persons who alter a genuine coin to make it appear more valuable face a fine and up to five years in prison if convicted.
Have You Been Charged with Counterfeiting?
If you were arrested and charged with any crime related to counterfeiting, your first step should be to contact an attorney to help you build a defense against your charges. Because counterfeiting is essentially an act of theft, where individuals and organizations are harmed through fraud and deceit, the federal government, acting through the U.S. Secret Service, is going to investigate, identify, and attempt to bring to trial anyone suspected of the crime.
Dan Carman, a Kentucky counterfeiting defense lawyer based in Lexington, is experienced in the area of counterfeiting law and will work with you to build a strong defense against your charges. He has been admitted to practice in all Kentucky state courts, the federal courts in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, and in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Before entering private practice, Dan served as a law clerk for the Honorable Jennifer B. Coffman, United States District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. Prior to the clerkship, he served as a judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps.
Get in touch with Dan today by calling his office at (859)685-1055, his cell at (859)396-1049, or by filling out his online contact form.