White-Collar Crime ‒ Counterfeiting

When the FBI, lawyers, and news organizations refer to white-collar crimes, they are talking about crimes committed by businesses and organizations that violate the public trust. 

White-collar refers to the respected jobs where employees once dressed in managerial garbs, such as white shirts with ties. If you are accused of committing a white-collar crime, you are suspected of breaking the trust of the people who rely on you by deceiving them or concealing the origin of an item you are selling or trading. 

Generally, when people think about white-collar crimes, they think of insider trading or other financial crimes. They do not think about violent crimes. While violent crimes have clear victims, the victims of white-collar crimes are difficult to identify individually. But, as a whole, white-collar crimes have more victims, as these types of financial crimes affect a large swath of the public. 

Is Counterfeiting a Federal Crime?

Counterfeiting is a white-collar crime that involves more than printing your own money. Counterfeiting charges may be pressed against someone who is suspected of producing false documents or goods and attempting to pass them off as genuine. Federal agents take counterfeiting charges seriously. If you counterfeit goods or documents, you could be prosecuted with counterfeit charges.

Is counterfeiting a federal crime? Yes, it is. Using or trying to use counterfeit money is against federal law, but only if you know the money is counterfeit and intentionally try to trick the recipient. If you are found guilty of using or making counterfeit money, you could spend up to 20 years in prison.

The federal government can also press counterfeiting charges if you attempt to falsify other documents and consumer goods and pass them off as genuine. They include forged items such as:

  • Bank documents, including checks
  • Medical documents, such as vaccine cards
  • Identification documents, including driver’s licenses
  • Official signatures 
  • Contracts
  • Brand name consumer goods 

If the federal government convicts you of counterfeiting any of these items, you could face stiff fines and decades in prison. They can also arrest and prosecute you for owning the equipment to make counterfeit items. 

People convicted of counterfeiting currency and United States securities could receive fines of up to $250,000. If your crimes include international currencies, your potential prison sentence could exceed 25 years. 

Counterfeiting vs. Forgery

Sometimes people counterfeiting charges are confused with forgery charges because the two crimes have so many similarities. Both can be federal crimes, but forgery is only a federal crime when people create faked federal documents such as money, stamps, military papers, patent documents, and other government-issued records. 

Another difference between forgery and counterfeiting is prison time. If you are accused and convicted of forgery, you could spend up to 10 years in prison and pay hefty fines. 

Counterfeiting Clothing and Brand Name Items

Businesses that manufacture brand-name clothing are protected by counterfeiting laws. Like other counterfeiting arrests, people who attempt to counterfeit luxury items such as purses, shoes, and jewelry can spend up to 20 years in prison. 

Manufacturing items with brand names on them that aren’t yours is considered a felony. It is also a felony to remove a brand name tag from an item of clothing, sew it onto another article of clothing, and attempt to sell it for a profit. The trademarked brand has the same amount of protection as counterfeit money or documents.

Punishments for Counterfeiting

If you receive a conviction for any counterfeiting charges, you will receive a harsh penalty. The fines can exceed six figures, and the prison sentences can be 20 or 25 years. If several victims suffered financial loss, your fines could be up to double what was lost or what you gained in the transactions. 

Judges will give heftier fines and longer sentences to convicted felons who have counterfeited more than one type of item or attempted to counterfeit gold bars or coins. Penalties often depend on the impact and specifics of the crime.

The federal government explains the sentencing guidelines in 2B5.1 and 2B5.3 in the codes. During sentencing, judges begin with a base level of nine, then add points depending on the details of the crime. 

Statute of Limitations

Counterfeiting crimes have a statute of limitations of five years. The state where the accused committed the counterfeiting crime does not factor into the statute of limitations. However, the federal government can increase the statute of limitations to eight years if the counterfeiter used the faked goods, money, or documents in a case related to terrorism. 

Get Help Fighting Counterfeiting Charges Today

People have been counterfeiting goods and currency since these items became valuable. The federal government can punish counterfeiters. The penalties are harsh, especially if the crime crosses international borders or state lines or if terrorists or criminals benefited from using the counterfeited goods or currency. 

If you have had counterfeiting charges brought against you, don’t wait; start building your defense today. Call the Zoukis Consulting Group.