Four people have been indicted for their involvement with a counterfeit currency enterprise based in the African country Uganda.
According to U.S. law enforcement, Federal Reserve notes were being made in Uganda and advertised, bought and sold through online forums, then passed in coffee shops and stores around the United States.
The indictment charges that in December 2013, a website known as Community-X was built and promoted the manufacturing, selling, buying, distribution and passing of counterfeit Federal Reserve notes. The website contained forums where members discussed the counterfeit bills and shared tips on how best to pass, ship and distribute the notes.
Accessible to the public
In September 2014, the website was split into two different sites, a Community-X HQ site, with controlled access, and a Community-X Recruitment Center site, which was accessible to the public.
The conspirators allegedly sold the counterfeit notes to purchasers in the United States. From December 2013 through February 2014, packages of the fake money were sent via DHL to the U.S. After February 2014, the counterfeit notes were smuggled into the U.S. by hiding them in glued together pages of fake charity pamphlets.
Members of the conspiracy performed various functions. Their tasks included treating the notes to prepare them for passing, using the U.S. Postal Service to mail the bills, packaging the notes, and coaching buyers on how to pass the counterfeit notes through casinos.
$1.4 million seized and passed
The indictment alleges more than $1.4 million in counterfeit notes have been seized and passed worldwide, both overseas and in the United States as part of this scheme.
The indictment returned on April 1, 2015 charges Ryan Andrew Gustafson, 27, aka “Jack Farrel” aka “Willy Clock,” a U.S. citizen currently incarcerated in Kampala, Uganda; Zackary L. Ruiz, 18, aka “Mr. Mouse,” of Las Vegas, Nevada; Jeremy J. Miller, 30, aka “Sinner,” of Seattle, Washington; and Michael Q. Lin, 20, aka “Mlin” aka “Mr. Casino,” of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with conspiracy and counterfeiting acts committed within and outside of the U.S.
“The early and aggressive application of traditional and cyber investigative expertise and the cooperation and assistance of numerous domestic and international law enforcement agencies in this case led to the quick and efficient identification of conspirators in a widespread cyber-based counterfeiting network,” said Special Agent in Charge Eric P. Zahren of the U.S. Secret Service Pittsburgh field office, “but as importantly, minimized financial losses in the U.S. and elsewhere, consistent with our charge to protect our currency, our commerce and, ultimately, our communities.”
Gustafson was charged by Ugandan authorities on Dec. 16, 2014, with conspiracy, counterfeiting and unlawful possession of ammunition. He is on trial in Uganda on their charges.