Master Currency Counterfeiter Prints Millions, Says ‘Screw You’ to US

Money faker made virtually perfect $20 bills, freed after only 45 days in jail.

May 9, 2014, 5:18 AM

May 9, 2014 — -- A man who claims he is the best counterfeiter in the world, Frank Bourassa, has been allowed to go free after turning over a huge quantity of fake U.S. $20 bills that authorities say are “not detectable by the naked eye.”

Bourassa, a resident of Trois Rivieres outside Montreal, Canada, spent only a month and a half in jail and Canadian authorities agreed earlier this year that they would not extradite him to the United States for prosecution.

He walked out of court on March 28 after paying a $1,500 fine in Canadian dollars.

“I’m safe, absolutely,” Bourassa told ABC News in an interviewed to be broadcast tonight on "20/20".

“They can’t do nothing about that,” he said after freely admitting how he set up a secret printing operation capable of producing $250 million in fake U.S. currency.

Bourassa’s fake $20 first showed up in Troy, Michigan in 2010 and U.S. and Canadian authorities spent almost four years tracking the source to Bourassa.

The fake notes have since been found across the U.S., from California to Nevada to Florida to states in the Northeast.

READ: Counterfeit Investigation: Can You Spot the Fake $20?

“It was important to get this right away, get this off the street, get this off the market,” said Tasha Adams, an investigator with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Integrated Counterfeit Enforcement Team (ICET).

“To detect the counterfeit on this one is very difficult,” added RCMP investigator Dan Michaud.

Bourassa said he spent two years studying the details about currency security on the website of the U.S. Secret Service to learn how to produce his fake money.

Security features added to the $20 in 2003 have not been updated since then, a Secret Service official confirmed.

U.S. bills are “the easiest of them all” to counterfeit, Bourassa said, because they are not printed on polymer.

“Even third world countries in Africa have polymer bills already,” he said.

He revealed how he began his operation by tricking paper mills in Germany and Switzerland to produce the unique paper made of cotton and linen used in the production of American bills.

“You have to start with that,” he said, to create the right feel when people handle the fake bills. “It’s got this crisp feel. If you don’t have that you’ll have nothing.”

Then, Bourassa said he scoured the internet to find suppliers in China that could provide ink and security features similar to what is used in the genuine bills.

“You know, go big or go home,” boasted Bourassa, who had previously served short stints in prison as a small time drug dealer.

The European paper mills shipped him five palettes of the special paper and Bourassa recalls the day it arrived.

“That was the coolest thing on earth cause from there, once his is done, the rest is nothing,” he said.

Authorities say Bourassa had help from others, including an actual skilled printer, who helped him locate an off-set press to produce the bills and other equipment to add non-consecutive serial numbers.

Once the money was printed, he sold it in bulk to criminal groups. “One million in fakes was $300,000,” Bourassa said.

Bourassa regarded his accomplishment as a complete victory over the United States government.

“It was, like, screw you,” he said.

In the end, Bourassa’s arrogance caught up with him.

An undercover agent in one of the criminal groups buying Bourassa’s fakes helped lead authorities to his secret operation in Quebec.

But after the RCMP and the U.S. Secret Service raided Bourassa’s home, he still had a card to play because authorities did not know where the remainder of his special paper and fake twenties was hidden.

“And that made them crazy, so Secret Service was here all the time, following me around all the time,” he told "20/20".

In March, he agreed to turn over the remaining fakes and paper in return for the deal his lawyer worked out with Canadian prosecutors.

U.S. Secret Service Deputy Special Agent in Charge Stuart Tryon declined to comment on Bourassa’s short prison visit, beyond saying the case was "handled by the Canadian government per their normal procedures." Tryon confirmed that Bourassa is not wanted in the U.S.

Canadian authorities said their investigation into the counterfeit ring is continuing. They believe Bourassa is going public now to claim credit in order to protect the leaders of the organized crime group with which he is associated.

“Evidence suggests there’s more stashes of paper, more stashes of counterfeit notes out there and there’s more people involved,” said RCMP investigator Adams.

“It takes a network of people to pass all these bills, it’s a huge quantity so you can‘t just trust a couple of people,” said RCMP investigator Michaud. “You need a big network.”

Bourassa insists it was all his operation but would not say whether there is still more counterfeit money hidden away or how much he profited from his operation.

Tryon of the Secret Service said that the American public should "rest assured that only one hundredth of one percent of currency that is in circulation is even perceived to be counterfeit."

“That number is so small because we do a great job in investigating these cases, as [do] our law enforcement partners,” he said.

The Secret Service says there were more than 3,500 arrests by American law enforcement last year of people attempting to counterfeit U.S. currency. The $20 bill was the most widely passed of the fake notes.

But what Bourassa and the Mounted police investigators agree on is that there are lots of his fake $20 notes still in circulation in the U.S., virtually undetectable.

ABC News' Rym Momtaz contributed to this report. Michele McPhee is a freelance Boston-based reporter and frequent contributor to ABC News.

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