Confessions: Master Counterfeiter Prints a Fortune

Act 4: Brian Ross tracks down a man who brags about making near-perfect $20 bills.
6:59 | 05/09/14

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Transcript for Confessions: Master Counterfeiter Prints a Fortune
Once again, "20/20"'s true confessio confessions. Here's Brian Ross. Reporter: The country is awash in tens of millions of dollars in fake money. It's turned up at a strip club in Peoria, Illinois. A majority of it was given to the dancers for dances. Reporter: At this grocery store in Connecticut. It is very, very frustrating. It costs us time, it costs us money. Reporter: And at this hot dog joint in New York City. They have the right paper they have the right ink. Reporter: Much of the counterfeit is $20 bills, Andrew Jacksons, and most of them are not that good, with more than 3,000 people arrested each year for doing it. We're working hard here and to get fake bills is just like an insult. Reporter: But for the last four years U.S. Authorities have been quietly tracking the one counterfeiter who has produced a fake $20 bill that is that good, described by authorities as virtually undetectable. This is really good, isn't it? It's very good. Reporter: And this is the man who says he did it, coming forward out of the shadows tonight on "20/20" to unabashedly admit something that could put him in a U.S. Prison for years. His name is frank Bourassa. I am the world's best counterfeiter right now. No one better than me. It's me. Reporter: We found the artful faker in a small town in Canada, outside Montreal. It was here that the 44-year-old Bourassa, a small time drug dealer with a big time passion for money. The real kind. When you tilt the bill it changes color. Reporter: The real kind, says he secretly set up an operation that would put him into the upper echelons of the criminal world. Was it a thrill? It was a thrill, absolutely. It was supposed to not be possible. And people like me, you know, we thrive on that very much. Reporter: The people in the U.S government who print and safeguard the real $20 bills have gone to great lengths to stop counterfeiters like frank Bourassa. But new security features added years ago to the twenty dollar bills have not been updated, and in fact, Bourassa says the secret service web site actually provided him a convenient road map to produce his counterfeit Andrew Jacksons. I know nothing more about bills than you do. So I started from scratch. Reporter: Step by step, Bourassa says he found suppliers on the internet from Europe to China that could provide the same security features and, most of all, the unique paper made of cotton and linen. Described in detail on that U.S. Secret service website. It has to feel right cause if it doesn't you know, you're screwed. Reporter: How do you get the right paper then, that's such a key to it? Well, that was an undertaking. Reporter: Bourassa started by setting up a fake company that supposedly needed the special paper for corporate bonds. And then he tricked this small paper mill in Germany to agree to make the special cotton paper with linen shreds, even adding an Andrew Jackson watermark. I was surprised, to some extent. Reporter: American currency, not that hard, you're saying, to counterfeit? The easiest of them all. Reporter: And then paper was shipped to Canada. Enough to make a quarter billion dollars' worth of fakes, according to Bourassa. When that shipment came in with all those ingredients, what did you think? That was the coolest thing on Earth cause from there once this is done, the rest is nothing. Reporter: Lots of shopkeepers count on these anti-counterfeit pens to detect fakes. A slash or an "X" will produce a dark black line. But as Canadian mounted police investigators Tasha Adams and Dan Michaud showed us, Bourassa's twenties easily passed the pen test. It stays fairly light. And if it was counterfeit, it would usually go black. Reporter: Within months, after Bourassa began selling his counterfeit money in bulk to criminal groups, they started showing up from California to Las Vegas to Florida to the northeast United States. It was being sold at 30%. Reporter: 30%? Yeah. Reporter: For Bourassa it was a complete victory over the U.S. Government. It's a fight and I won. So it was good. I was happy. Reporter: It didn't bother you conscience at all? Not, at all. Also to the contrary, it was, you know, like, you know, screw you. Reporter: But the real victims are not the U.S. Government, but all the shopkeepers and consumers stuck with fake $20 bills the bank won't accept. That comes back to us as a loss. We lose that. So if it was $500 in bills, it's $500 that we take a hit on. Reporter: What do you say to people who are looking at their $20 bills tonight. Watching you on "20/20," what should they look for? I honestly don't know how to answer that. Reporter: Because what you made was so good? Yeah, yeah, it was good. Reporter: And in the end, it was Bourassa's arrogance that caught up with him. Authorities began to track his every move, after an undercover agent in one of the criminal groups buying Bourassa's counterfeit led them to his small town. He was under constant surveillance, even when he bought a snack at a convenience store. And then Canadian and American authorities moved in, seizing his printing press, his carefully crafted plates, and about $1 million worth of the fake twenties. This is going to affect the Americans and it was important to get this right away. Get this off the street, get it off the market. Reporter: The mounted police investigators showed us how well Bourassa's bills matched up with many of the key details of the real twenties. To detect the counterfeit on this one is very difficult. The feel is very similar. Reporter: So if you closed your eyes could you tell the difference between real and fake? No, I wouldn't. Reporter: But even after his arrest, Bourassa still had a card to play. Authorities did not know where the rest of the fake bills and paper, in various stages of production, was actually hidden. And that made them crazy. Sect service was following me around all the time. Reporter: So Bourassa was able to cut the deal of a lifetime for a criminal. Earlier this year he turned over stacks of boxes holding the ingredients for more than $200 million in counterfeit money. And in return, the Canadian government dropped most of the charges against him and agreed not to ever send him to the U.S. For prosecution. Reporter: So you're safe from U.S. Extradition, you're safe from U.S. Law? I'm safe, absolutely. They can't do nothing about that. Reporter: Canadian authorities say their investigation is far from over, and that Bourassa has ties to organized crime groups who they think he is trying to protect. Evidence suggests there's more stashes of paper, more stashes of paper, more stashes of the counterfeit notes out there and there's more people involved. Reporter: In the end, Bourassa spent only a month and a half in a local jail for counterfeiting all that U.S. Currency. The U.S. Secret service says there are now no charges against, and Bourassa today is a free man. So you beat the system? Completely? Yeah, I did. Reporter: You are the master counterfeiter of this decade? I am. Coming up, confessions from

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