Accusations of making or possessing counterfeit money or goods in the U.S. are serious and can lead to grave consequences. All U.S. paper money and coins are made with specific combinations of materials and are printed or stamped with specific designs. The sole purpose of blending these unique elements is to make money difficult to copy. Forged and counterfeit money is a real risk to individuals who receive valueless money because of its impact on the economy. The more money in circulation, even if some of it is fake, the greater the risk of inflation. By criminalizing and preventing counterfeiting, the U.S. government protects the value of the dollar. A conviction based on a federal counterfeiting charge results in harsh penalties, including considerable time behind bars.
If you are being investigated for making or possessing counterfeit money or the means to create it, you need to work with Houston counterfeiting defense attorney right away. With considerable experience navigating the Texas criminal justice system, federal attorney Ned Barnett can help you understand the charges against you and how to best to handle your situation.
Call (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Federal Offenses for Counterfeit Currency
Below are a selection of federal offenses related to forged or counterfeit U.S. Securities and obligations:
- 18 U.S. Code §471: It is unlawful to make, forge, counterfeit or alter any obligation or security of the U.S., including paper money, coins, bonds, and other U.S. notes or certificates of indebtedness with the intent to defraud. Conviction under this law is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine.
- 18 U.S. Code §472: It is illegal to pass, utter, publish, sell, or attempt to punish or sell, with the intent to defraud, any forged, counterfeited or altered any U.S. obligation or security. If you are found guilty of this crime, you can be fined and punished to up to 20 years in prison.
- 18 U.S. Code §473: Buying, selling, exchanging, transferring, receiving, or delivering false, forged, counterfeited or altered any U.S. obligation or security with the intent that the item be passed as true and genuine is punishable by a fine and up to 20 years in prison.
- 18 U.S. Code §474: Whoever possesses or has control over plates, stones, or other items that can be used to print any obligation or security of the U.S., or possess a digital or electronic image of any obligation or security of the U.S., or knowingly uses one of these items for the purpose of making an obligation or security of the U.S. commits a Class B felony, punishable by an imprisonment of up to 25 years.
- 18 U.S. Code §476: Whoever takes, procures or makes an impression, stamp, analog, digital, electronic image, or imprint of any tool or instrument used to make any U.S. obligation or security shall be fined and imprisoned up to 25 years.
- 18 U.S. Code §477: Possessing, keeping, or control over any imprint, impression, stamp, analog, digital or electronic image of any tool or instrument used to make any U.S. obligation or security, with the intent to defraud, can be punished by a fine and up to 25 years in prison.
Federal Offense for Counterfeit Goods
In the same way that the government tries to protect the value of money, it is also illegal to create, buy or sell counterfeit goods, such as clothing and art. Under 18 U.S. Code §2320, also known as the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984, you can be imprisoned for decades and fined if you traffic or attempt to traffic counterfeit goods. Specifically, if someone traffics goods or services and knowingly uses a counterfeit mark on or in connection with goods and services, that individual can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and up to a $2 million fine. Subsequent convictions of this law or counterfeit goods that cause serious bodily injury or death are punishable with must higher fines and longer prison lengths.
Collateral Consequences of a Federal Conviction
If you are convicted of a federal offense related to forged or counterfeit U.S. securities or obligations, you will have a criminal record that includes a serious felony conviction. As a convicted felon, you may:
- Be imprisoned without the chance of parole
- Pay fines and court fees
- Suffer damage to your personal and professional reputation
- Lose your right to vote
- Lose your right to own a firearm
- Lose custody of or visitation with your children
- Lose your professional licenses or be barred from gaining certain professional licenses
- Lose your visa, be denied citizenship, or deported to your native country
Once you complete your sentence, your criminal record can hinder your ability to move forward with life. If you apply to higher education institutions or for employment, there may be a background check run that will bring up your counterfeiting conviction. You may be denied admission to a school or lose out on stable work because you appear untrustworthy.
Defending Against a Counterfeiting Charge
If you have been charged with possessing counterfeit materials such as money or goods like designer clothing, a strong defense will usually involve your lack of knowledge or intent to defraud anyone else. You may have been unaware that the money or goods you used or sold were fake.
You may have also believed you owned a collectible item. The U.S. Treasury is in control of ensuring that businesses and hobbyists can own certain items that may have been associated with creating U.S. products that were created and maintained by the U.S. government such as stamps. If you believed you owned something of merely historic value and you had no intention to defraud anyone else, you may have a strong defense against the charges.
A Houston Counterfeiting Defense Attorney Can Help
As a dedicated and skilled attorney, Ned Barnett is prepared to handle any type of federal counterfeiting offense. With more than 30 years of experience, as a federal and state prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney, attorney Barnett has a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and is ready to protect your interests, so you obtain the best possible outcome.
Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free consultation and have your questions answered.