M A N I L A, Philippines, Feb. 20, 2001 -- Officials said today they have
seized more than $2 trillion in counterfeit U.S. Federal Reserve
bonds and arrested one suspect in the southern Philippines.
Police also showed reporters stacks of counterfeit Japanese yen and Argentine peso notes in various denominations, a few fake one-dollar bills and some other currencies seized Saturday.
Police and staff from the U.S. Embassy arrested a Filipino man in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro with the falsified currencies and U.S. bonds along with German and Argentine bonds — a total counterfeit haul of $2,157,044,400,000.
‘Very Good Quality’
The fakes were of "very good quality" but some of the bond denominations do not exist, said David Popp, a U.S. Treasury Department representative.
The U.S. bonds, totaling more $2 trillion, were in denominations ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to $500 million. The bonds of other countries were in denominations as small as $30.
Popp said the large bonds may have been meant for a major "lost treasure" scam.
"Very frequently these fraudsters weave a tale that there's these long-lost Federal Reserve bonds hidden away or found in a plane crash," Popp told a news conference.
The raid on the house also found two metal boxes from the U.S. Federal Reserve, said Nestor Gualberto, Philippine National Police superintendent.
Some Smuggled Out of the Country?
He said police charged Archie Mingoc with counterfeiting and were seeking five others. He said some of the bonds had been sold in the southern Philippines and that police were trying to discover whether others were smuggled out of the country.
"We know they were selling some bonds to very curious buyers — businessmen in the area," Gualberto said. "We're still ascertaining where they're coming from."
The raid follows two other large-scale seizures in Mindanao in December 1999 and February 2000, when a combined $110 billion in "good quality" fake bonds and currency were found.
Cagayan de Oro, 500 miles southeast of Manila, is in the southern region torn by at least three guerrilla uprisings.
Two Muslim separatist groups are fighting to carve homelands out of the region, while communist guerrillas are fighting to overthrow the government.
Strife in the poverty-stricken region also makes it home to kidnapping and other crime.