What Are the Counterfeiting Laws and Penalties in the United States?

 Posted on December 27, 2019 in White Collar Crime

IL fraud attorney, IL counterfeit crimes lawyer, Illinois defense lawyerThe FBI has recently broken up a counterfeiting scheme involving fake iPhones and iPads. The scheme was a sophisticated one. Although the devices were fake, they contained the original International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers and serial numbers. These are nearly impossible to counterfeit and usually only appear on original products. The suspects are three brothers that now face a number of counterfeiting charges. Many people think that counterfeiting is a somewhat old crime, but stories like this show it is just as prevalent as ever. So, what are the penalties for it, and are there any defenses to these charges?

The Definition of Counterfeiting Under the Law

Under the law, found at 18 U.S.C.A., Section 471, counterfeiting is defined as intending to defraud, falsely create, forge, counterfeit, or alter any security of the United States. The term ‘security of the United State’ indicates U.S. currency. However, for a bill to be considered counterfeit, the fake must be close enough to real currency that it would fool a reasonable person.

Although the statute indicates mainly U.S. currency, individuals may face penalties for counterfeiting other items, as well. These items include:

  • Documents from certain agencies, such as banks and credit unions
  • Bonds, contracts, proposals, bids, affidavits, and public records created for the purpose of defrauding the United States
  • Documents relating to imports, or customs duties
  • Documents from a federal court
  • Seals from federal agencies
  • Postal stamps from the U.S. Post Office

According to the statute, the penalty for counterfeiting securities, or currency, is a maximum fine of $250,000, up to 20 years in prison, or both. The penalty for other types of counterfeiting is up to 25 years in prison and the same maximum fine of $250,000.

Defenses to Counterfeiting

The only viable defense to counterfeiting is that a defendant did not have the intent to defraud anyone, and this only applies to currency and other securities of the United States. This defense will not work with other types of counterfeiting, such as federal agency seals, because the intent to defraud is not an element of those crimes.

However, if a person is charged with counterfeiting securities or currency, they can show that they created the counterfeit piece as a joke. If they can show that they never intended to defraud anyone, or that a reasonable person would have known it was a fake, this can provide a valid defense.

Facing Charges? Call Our Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys

Facing charges of counterfeiting, or any other federal crime for that matter may seem quite hopeless. It does not have to be, though. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, our skilled Chicago federal criminal defense attorney can help. Attorney Garfinkel can create a solid defense to help you beat the charges, or get them reduced for a lower sentence. Call us today at 312-629-0669 to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about how we can help with your case.


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