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9 indicted in spread of photocopy $100 bills

Thursday, August 15, 2002

By David B. Caruso, The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- In one of the largest cases of its kind, a gang of counterfeiters used a common office photocopier to run off at least $800,000 in phony hundred dollar bills that have been circulating for three years in several states.

Prosecutors said nine men were to be charged in the case, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday. Secret Service agents were still looking for six of the suspects, including the alleged ringleader and printer of the bills, Ricky Scott Nelson, 48, of Philadelphia.

The counterfeiters first bleached portions of real $1 and $5 bills to erase the denomination and pictures, then photocopied sections of a real $100 bill onto the bleached paper, including the portrait of Benjamin Franklin, according to the indictment.

A network of accomplices then fanned out to area shopping centers and used the fake bills to buy inexpensive items, splitting up the change and leaving merchants stuck with the forgeries.

Because the bad bills were printed on real currency paper and still contained many of the security features found on a $1 bill, such as a watermark and fibers that can be detected with a magnetic pen, they were realistic enough to fool many clerks.

About $3 million in phony currency produced on office copiers was recovered between 1998 and 2001, the time in which the bad Philadelphia bills were allegedly circulating, said Secret Service Special Agent James Borasi.

"This is one of the largest copying conspiracies in the history of the United States," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan.

Investigators have recovered $800,000 of the bad notes, but said more may still be circulating. So far the forgeries have been discovered throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and as far away as Baltimore and Albany, N.Y.

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