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Uganda based international counterfeit currency operation led by a US citizen

A US citizen pleaded guilty to charges of leading a counterfeiting currency operation in Uganda and money laundering acts, as reported last Sunday by Scott W., the United States Attorney.

Ryan Gustafson, a 31 year old US citizen, pleaded guilty before Mark Hornak, the Chief US District Judge, to three charges.

Ryan Gustafson admitted to leading a US currency counterfeit operation in the Republic of Uganda. He also admitted to flooding Uganda and the United States with around $2 million in counterfeit US banknotes. Even though the counterfeit US banknotes were produced and distributed initially in Uganda starting from December 2013, they were also distributed in retail stores across Pittsburgh, namely in Oakland, Carnegie, and McCandless Township. Moreover, the counterfeit banknotes were sold on a darknet hidden service launched by Gustafson, who named the service “Community X”.

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According to the information presented to the court, $20, $50, and $100 US dollar bills were being distributed. Collectively, $1.8 million worth of fake banknotes were seized in Uganda. Also, $270,000 in fake US dollar bills were seized in the USA. The conspirators passed the fake banknotes in exchange for real currency in the US, Uganda, and multiple countries.

Judge Hornak adjourned sentencing to July 23rd, 2019. The law is expected to sentence Gustafson for 43 years in prison, as well as to a fine of $1,000,000. According to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the imposed sentence has to be based on the seriousness of the committed offences and previous criminal history.

Darknet and counterfeit banknotes:

Darknet marketplaces have been increasingly used in the trading of counterfeit banknotes. Earlier this month, Spain’s National Police arrested seven individuals for selling fake euro banknotes from the arrested Austrian darknet vendor via several darknet marketplaces. These arrests were part of an international operation that aims at finding Australian buyers of the fake banknotes from the arrested Austrian vendor.

Following the acceptance of an order, the vendor would send a package that included the fake euro bills to the buyer via the mail. During the arrest, a search of his property by agents of the State Office of Criminal Investigation led to the seizure of equipment and materials used in counterfeiting banknotes. Also, fake banknotes totaling around 83,000 euro were seized. Via the first phase of the operation, Spain’s National Police arrested 18 suspects and seized counterfeited 20 and 50 euro bills worth 14,820 euros.

In the second phase of the operation, Spain’s National Police tirelessly continued to search for and locate buyers who were not arrested via the first phase of the operation. On conclusion of the criminal investigations, Spain’s National Police arrested seven suspects and filed search warrants last February. All seven arrests resulted in the confiscation of counterfeit euro notes.

Last February, US Secret Service agents managed to track and bring down what is thought to be the most notorious counterfeiter of US banknotes. Daniel Johnson, a 34 year old man from Oklahoma, used the alias “Billmaker” to sell counterfeit US banknotes on several darknet marketplaces. To identify the real world identity of Billmaker, a US secret agent placed an order for four fake $100 bills on one of the darknet marketplaces that Billmaker used to sell counterfeit banknotes. The four bills cost $120, and the agent paid using bitcoin. The fake banknotes were shipped in a blue and red envelope. The fake banknotes were of high quality as advertised by Billmaker on the darknet marketplace. Analysis of the fake $100 bills by the Secret Service revealed that the counterfeit bills were linked to $4.1 million of fake banknotes that had been already passed before the order was placed on the darknet marketplace.

In one of the arrests involving a suspect from Zaragoza’s capital, Spanish law enforcement arrested a 19 year old teenager after searching his residence where they found and confiscated counterfeit euro notes, powerful personal computers, advanced graphics cards, and cryptocurrency wallets. The police suggested that the teen is a tech genius and was using the advanced graphics cards and powerful personal computers to mine bitcoin.

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