A Counterfeit Ring Behind $77 Million in Fake Bills Finally Got Busted

For years, the Secret Service has been tracking down the legendary "Russian-Israeli Note," one of the most sophisticated and common fake Benjamins ever made. This high-tech international ring was finally busted and indicted this week, thanks to years of good old-fashioned surveillance and legwork.

The lucky break in the case came back in May 2012, when four of these fake $100 bills popped up at a title loan shop in Virginia. The Russian-Israeli note is so sophisticated that it's usually not detected until it reaches a bank or a Federal Reserve, at which point the chain of ownership is almost impossible to trace. Because they were used at a title loan shop, the bills in Virginia could be directly connected to the person who paid with them; in Secret Service special agent parlance, it's a "No. 1 bill."

Indeed, the Secret Service raided the home of the guy who passed the bills and turned him into an informant. From there, they set up wiretaps that eventually led to printing plants in Israel. The Secret Service then watched as the gang moved their operations to New Jersey earlier this year. According to Bloomberg, agents surveilling the New Jersey location actually saw a tractor delivering a printing press.

Details on how the $100 bills were faked is scant, as you might expect, though you can bet it's a whole lot more sophisticated than cleaning product and an inkjet printer. The gang even came close to replicating the 3D security ribbon on the redesigned $100 bill. But eventually, even best counterfeiters seem destined to get caught. Unless there's someone even better out there that we don't even know about yet. [Bloomberg via Quartz]

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