|Counterfeiters Pass $1M in Fake Bills|
|By ASHLEY JENNINGS (@ashleyjjennings)||Feb 4, 2013, 2:57 PM|
A six man counterfeit ring in Georgia has been busted after allegedly distributing more than $1.1 million in fake $50 bills throughout the South.
The accused ring leader, Heath J. Kellogg, 36, is described as a self-taught graphic artist who goes by the nickname "The Printer."
"For counterfeit artists, it's a craft," Secret Service spokesman Max Milien told ABC News. "With technology, it is easier for them to produce the quality of an actual bill. Many use resume paper because that's the best they can find at the time."
The suspects used a home printer out of Atlanta to create the counterfeit currency, assistant U.S. Attorney Alana Black said.
Bills were spread throughout Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida, she said.
"The $1.1 million is just the amount returned to Secret Service traced here, so it's a floor amount," Black told ABC News. "It's unlikely the Secret Service has uncovered every dollar yet."
The suspects used different types of printers for different parts of the counterfeiting process, officials said.
"They created two different layers to simulate the watermark," Black said. "There's even one particular strip on their bills that only shows up under ultraviolet light. All with commercial printers."
Kellogg's alleged multistep print process took detectives months to crack.
Secret Service agents got their first break in May 2011 when an Atlanta based bank sent the agency counterfeit bills that were missing proper serial numbers and watermarks, according to court documents.
Officers then arrested a man in the summer of 2012 when he tried to pass $500 in counterfeit bills allegedly made by Kellogg.
The man became a confidential informer who released names, cell phone numbers and physical descriptions of the counterfeiters to the Secret Service, according to court documents. He eventually helped agents track Kellogg to his home, where they traced toner purchased for the printer that was being used to make the bills along with a new offset press in Kellogg's storage unit, the court documents stated.
Others charged in the case include Kellogg's father, James C. Kellogg, 63, Black said.
"This case exemplifies the negative impact of counterfeit currency to our local and national economy," Special Agent in the Secret Service Atlanta Field Office Reginald G. Moore said. "We will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who violates the faith and trust citizens have in our financial infrastructure."
Each year, the Secret Service confiscates $80 million in counterfeit bills nationally. According to Milien, roughly $2 million of that confiscated cash comes from Georgia each year.
"For Atlanta, this case is a significant amount. It's almost half of the counterfeit currency passed throughout the whole state," Milien said. "They were successful."
Kellogg remains in federal custody. All six men have pleaded non-guilty and could face five years in prison for conspiracy charges and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit currency.
Note: ABCNews.com incorrectly reported the alleged ringleader of the counterfeiting operation to be James C. Kellogg. While James Kellogg was arrested and charged with being a suspect in the case, the group's alleged ringleader was his Heath J. Kellogg, prosecutors said.