Sunday, July 22, 2007

LA Gangs take a vacation in Hawaii using funny (counterfeit) money

I've read a lot about street gangs, who used to finance themselves by selling drugs, moving into the financial crimes arena. Some say financial crimes are a lot more profitable, and the punishment for getting caught isn't nearly as harsh.

Looks like some of them have gone West (Hawaii) to enjoy a little vacation financed with "funny money."

The is reporting:

Thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit $100 bills are flowing into Hawaii, most likely from Los Angeles-based gangs, according to Secret Service officials.

For the last week or so, $2,000 to $2,500 a day in counterfeit $100 bills have been passed at retail stores in Waikiki and across the islands, the Secret Service said.

Some high-end Hawaii retailers are taking a hit.

Apparently, the members of the Bloods and Crips involved in this (didn't know they were hanging out together) sometimes buy merchandise and then refund it a short while later. Refund fraud is a common way criminals launder money, or turn it into disposable income.

According to the article, counterfeit (funny) money is also being passed by members of the military coming back from the Middle East. article, here. There is a pretty good video on how to detect counterfeit money to the left of the article.

The article confirms what I've seen a lot of in the past couple of years, which is that a lot of the counterfeit money in circulation are five dollar bills washed into hundred bills. Because of this, the counterfeit detection pens, which most merchants use don't work.

The best way to detect them is to hold them up to the light and if the hologram is Abraham Lincoln instead of Benjamin Franklin, it is a counterfeit. The embedded strips will also state that they are five dollar bills, if they are counterfeit.

If you are in the money business, I recommend teaching your employees how to visually inspect money. Counterfeit detection devices are not 100 percent reliable.

The Money Factory (government site) has a lot of good information on how to detect counterfeit money, here.

The United States Secret Service also has a page on their site with a lot of information, here.

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