You are here
ST. LOUIS - The new colorized 20-dollar bills, designed to thwart counterfeiters, have been circulating for only a month, but they're already being knocked off, according to an Associated Press report.
The latest case is that of a Missouri woman whom federal grand jurors accused Friday of passing four fakes of the new $20 bill Oct. 16 -- exactly one week after the revamped notes were introduced nationally.
Margretta Saffold's case brings to at least nine the number of people arrested in Alabama, California, Tennessee, Utah, and Missouri in cases involving counterfeits of the new bill, according to U.S. Secret Service spokeswoman Jean Mitchell. Nearly 200 bogus versions of the new bill have already surfaced, she said.
Saffold, 33, is the first person to be indicted in connection with the revamped $20 bill, Mitchell said. She was charged with one felony count of passing counterfeit currency and faces up to 20 years behind bars and $250,000 in fines if convicted.
The Secret Service believes more arrests will follow in upcoming months, in part because counterfeiters may be hoping to capitalize on busy cashiers during the Christmas shopping rush.
"We somewhat anticipated this," Mitchell said of arrests coming so soon after the introduction of the new bill. In a world where commercially available digital equipment has made counterfeiting easier, cheaper, and often harder to detect, "people are taking opportunities to challenge the system," she said.
Along with the traditional green and black colors, the new $20 notes also include faint touches of peach and blue in certain spots on the bills. Tiny number 20s are printed on the back of the notes in yellow. Other features aimed making them harder to knock off include a faint blue eagle in the background on the front of the bill to the left of Andrew Jackson's image, and a metallic green eagle and shield to his right.
In the 2001 fiscal year, $47.5 million in counterfeit bills got into circulation in the United States, the Secret Service says. Of that amount, $18.4 million -- or 39 percent -- were phony computer-generated notes.