People are always looking for a way to make a few dollars during the summer. This always reminds me of the story of my favorite counterfeiter, Emerich Juettner. Most people have never heard of him. He had a 10+ year career making counterfeit $1 bills back in the 1930s through the late 1940s.
As a younger man, Juettner worked as a janitor, but when he retired due to health concerns, he still needed a few dollars. Using his love of photography and engraving, Juettner started a small-scale counterfeiting operation in his New York apartment.
Almost immediately, his bills were recognized as fakes. That’s because almost everything about his work was off. The colors were off. The paper was bad. His technique was to photograph a genuine bill and use the picture as a model to create an engraved plate. He even misspelled the word “Washington” on the front of the bill.
Still, Juettner distributed tens of thousands of dollars of his homemade money, and he was always able to make the rent. The Secret Service spent more money and resources investigating him than any other counterfeiter in the nation’s history.
Despite handing out some 200,000 warning cards to merchants, it took a fire in Juettner’s apartment to finally shut down his operation. Not wanting to get caught with the phony printing plates, he buried them in the yard near his apartment. Sometime later, neighborhood kids ran across the plates, along with a stash of Juettner’s bills. One of the kids told his dad about the find. It did not take long for the Secret Service to zero in on the residents of the complex. Juettner stood trial and was convicted. Due to his age and other factors, he only served a few months in jail.
As an aside…
I can tell you from experience representing a few modern-day counterfeiters, the technique has changed significantly. Most try to use copy machines or desktop printers to knock out a passable product. As with Juettner, one of the big downfalls is always the paper. None of my clients could ever get the color quality or paper just right.
And of course, they were my clients because they got caught.
If you are faced with overwhelming debts, please do not start your own home-based printing operation. There are always alternatives. Give us a call. If worse comes to worse, we can always talk about bankruptcy.
Written by Greg Gouner