Colombia Dismantles Counterfeit Dollar Factory

Colombia Dismantles Counterfeit Dollar Factory

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
September 17, 2020

In late July, troops of the Colombian Army’s Deployment Force against Transnational Threats, in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General’s Technical Investigation Team, dismantled a factory that produced counterfeit U.S. dollars in Meta department. According to a press release from the Army, the criminal organization had been engaging in this activity for a year, producing $1.5 million monthly. The monthly earnings of the criminal group from their counterfeit activities amounted to $400,000, the Army’s Press Office said.

During the operation carried out in a house in the Villavicencio municipality, authorities found several elements used to commit the crime, such as a laminating machine, lithographic ink, an industrial lithographic machine, an ultraviolet banknote checker, and more than $600,000 in counterfeit banknotes, the Army said. Authorities also detained two members of the criminal ring on site.

“What they want is to go unnoticed, and they look for common areas, neighborhoods,” Brigadier General Antonio María Beltrán Díaz, commander of the Army’s 4th Division, whose troops took part in the operation, told Diálogo. “That’s the goal, to go unnoticed, rent a house, and set up the machines […]. But this is also what draws attention and helps us to gather intelligence [and] get to them.”

Brig. Gen. Beltrán said that the operation took place after one year of monitoring and “thorough intelligence work” with the support of the U.S. Secret Service, the organization that combats U.S. dollar counterfeiting. Once the banknotes were printed, the criminals distributed them in different Colombian cities and neighboring countries for their commercialization, the Army said.

According to InSight Crime, an organization specializing in security threats in Latin America and the Caribbean, criminal groups that engage in counterfeiting currency have developed sophisticated techniques to produce convincing counterfeit money. Peru, the organization says, has surpassed Colombia, becoming the greatest concern in Latin America for the U.S. Secret Service.

“The major counterfeiters are usually part of organized crime, drug cartels, […] and they sell their counterfeit bills wholesale, for 50 cents on the dollar or sometimes even less,” Arian Panariti, operations supervisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Cash Services Group, said in a press release published by the institution.

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) says on its website, “If left unchecked, the circulation of counterfeit currency can undermine national economies, weaken financial institutions, and jeopardize people’s livelihoods. It fuels the underground economy and finances the activities of organized criminal networks and terrorists.”