Governments have long understood that the only way they can create and preserve the value of paper money, and the power that comes with printing it, is to strictly control its production and supply. Letting anyone who wanted to print money do so would destabilize the entire financial system, and potentially the government itself. As a result, creating or using fake currency, also known as counterfeiting, is treated as a very serious crime.
Each month, federal agents with the Secret Service confiscate roughly $15,000 in counterfeit currency in and around the Portland area, including in Bend. But money is not the only counterfeit item circulating in Oregon. Almost any item that gets its value from tightly controlling its quality and supply can be the subject of a counterfeiting claim — government documents, luxury goods, and drugs are a few examples.
As an experienced cannabis attorney, Michael R. Hughes understands the power of the government to control how much of something you are able to produce, and threaten your reputation and livelihood if you dare to disobey. He brings his knowledge of government regulations and passion for deregulation and open markets to each criminal defense case he takes on.
What Is Counterfeiting?
Under state and federal law, it is illegal to defraud or attempt to defraud someone by making them think something you have created, or a fake item you have purchased for resale, is genuine. This is a very broad definition that is not limited to currency. Other items you can be prosecuted for counterfeiting include:
- The materials or equipment used to counterfeit money
- Forged checks or bank documents
- Fake driver’s license or identification cards
- Consumer goods
- Postage stamps
- Official signatures
- Contracts and other legal documents
- Medical documents and blank prescription slips
- Prescription and recreational drugs.
The end goal of counterfeiting is to replicate or imitate something, and then pass it off as original to the disadvantage of the next recipient. It is important to note that merely creating or possessing counterfeit goods will not typically get you into trouble. It is the intent to defraud others that makes creating or possessing counterfeit goods illegal.
The rise of e-commerce platforms and the legalization of cannabis have renewed the government’s emphasis on enforcing counterfeiting laws. Policy makers and those in power have a strong desire to control these booming markets. The increased effort and resources dedicated to stopping counterfeiting can make it seem like this is a new problem, but that is far from true.
Governments have been concerned with counterfeiting for centuries. Counterfeiting itself is often called the world’s second-oldest profession.
Recent archeological discoveries suggest ancient Egyptian counterfeiters in Canaan were passing copper treated with arsenic off as silver between 1200 and 950 B.C.
When paper money was introduced in China in the 13th century, it was made exclusively from mulberry wood pulp. In order to control access to this special paper, guards were stationed around mulberry forests, and counterfeiters were punished by death.
During the American Revolution, the British released as much counterfeit money into the American market as possible in an attempt to devalue colonial currency and destabilize the fledgling government. This is still a common tactic in warfare.
The British counterfeiting efforts during the Revolution may be why counterfeiting is one of just a few crimes mentioned in the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 6 says Congress shall have power to “To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States.”
Congress passed the first federal anti-counterfeiting laws in 1790 and has updated them as needed. Recent updates and interpretations have focused on preventing counterfeit goods from being sold online. There has also been a focus on preventing bad actors from taking advantage of emerging cannabis markets in states like Oregon where medical and recreational use has been legalized at the state level.
Today, being convicted of counterfeiting is a serious crime with severe consequences.
The consequences of being convicted of counterfeiting are quite serious. Steep fines and imprisonment are nearly impossible to escape.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 472 is the federal law pertaining to counterfeiting. It states that individuals may be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison for producing, trafficking, selling, or possessing counterfeited U.S. securities.
In general, the more a counterfeit item would be worth if it were real, the harsher the sentence.
The collateral consequences of a conviction are just as devastating. Counterfeiting is a fraud crime, and even being accused of such a crime carries a stigma. If convicted, you may be barred from working in certain industries, have trouble accessing credit, and will get flagged for extra scrutiny if not immediate disqualification every time someone runs a background check on you.
Putting up a strong defense is the only way to prevent a counterfeiting conviction from haunting you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with counterfeiting, or suspect you are being investigated for it, Attorney Michael Hughes can help you fight to clear your good name.
Possible Defenses to Counterfeiting Charges
If you have been accused of counterfeiting you should take action to defend yourself. There are several defenses to counterfeiting charges that an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you assert.
As discussed above, a big part of the crime of counterfeiting is the intent to defraud someone else by passing off your fake items as real. If you can prove you created or possessed counterfeit items, but did not intend to defraud anyone, you may have a valid defense.
You may also be able to argue that the counterfeit items you possessed were of such poor quality it would be impossible to defraud anyone with them. If an ordinary person would not be fooled by the fake items, they may not meet the definition of counterfeit goods or currency.
Depending on how the counterfeit items in your possession were discovered, your attorney may be able to suppress the evidence of their existence by asserting your Constitutional rights. If a search was conducted, it must have been properly conducted. Was there probable cause? If a search warrant was used, was it properly obtained and carried out? Attorney Michael Hughes can analyze your case thoroughly to see if your Constitutional rights were violated.
An Attorney Who Understands Your Side
As a seasoned criminal defense Attorney Michael Hughes knows how easy it is to find yourself on the wrong side of the law, even if your intentions are good. If you are facing counterfeiting charges, you should not let the government declare you a fraudster without putting up a strong defense. Attorney Hughes can help you fight the charges whether you have been accused of counterfeiting currency, government documents, luxury goods, drugs, or something else. Please reach out today to schedule an initial consultation.