Ben Franklin apparently whets the criminal appetite. With his mug beaming from the front of every $100 bill, Franklin, who owned a printing company, brought business savvy to currency manufacturing. But counterfeiters keep trying.
On June 14, two men from Vallejo were arrested at Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park after they allegedly attempted to use counterfeit $100 bills. Police found almost $36,000 of the ersatz bills in the suspects’ car.
Police arrested Rodney Short, 49, and Johnny Winn, 52, after finding copious amounts of cash in their possession. The banknotes were manufactured to look like a “much older version of the $100 bill than is currently issued by the government,” the Sonoma County sheriff said.
Cash for cannabis
Coincidentally, a building just six miles north of the Graton casino houses Viavi Solutions, a technology business that works closely with the U.S. government as well as dozens of other countries to defeat counterfeiters. The security technology will be increasingly important in the North Bay, where cannabis businesses run largely on cash because pot remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
CannaCraft, the largest business in Santa Rosa’s CannaCom Valley with annual revenue of nearly $50 million, operates on cash. “It’s a pain, a lot of work to count out everybody’s paycheck, pay all the bills,” said co-founder Dennis Hunter. Some vendors “don’t want to take cash. You are in little predicaments and have to figure out ways to deal with” them. Several employees are needed just to manage the cash.
Giffen Avenue Property, CannaCraft’s sister company, submitted applications to Santa Rosa for indoor cultivation in about 70,000 square feet, and plans to more than triple its business. The company pays income taxes to the IRS all in cash. “We go in there with a box of money,” Hunter said. “For three and a half hours, they count it by hand. They have no money counters.”
Some government agencies and cannabis businesses are considering use of digital smart-safes to count cash faster and rapidly validate the authenticity of each bill to detect counterfeits.
Viavi Solutions fights counterfeiters
In 1981, Santa Rosa-based Optical Coating Laboratory Inc. formed a Flex Products division, which created a roll coater for color-shifting pigments. The technology enabled governments worldwide to adopt anti-counterfeiting measures for currencies that use special pigments.
OCLI was acquired in 2000 by JDSU. The company name changed to Viavi Solutions in 2015. Anti-counterfeiting remains a focus of Viavi Solutions, which had 2016 revenue of $906 million. Roughly $200 million of that revenue is from the division that makes color-shifting-pigments. Much of the pigment is made in Santa Rosa; the company has another plant in China.
The technology, such as Viavi’s ChromaFlair pigment, can be used by businesses to make it difficult to knock off counterfeit products. Plastic, textiles, packaging, and water-based metallic paints and coatings use technology that traps layered pigment flakes inside a shell of silicon dioxide. When a product is viewed from different angles, the color changes. The pigment is available in colors including gold-silver, red-gold, blue-red, green-purple and silver-green.
In addition to color-shifting pigments, the company manufactures taggant material used in intaglio (engraving), screen, gravure (image engraved on cylinder) or offset-type inks. Taggants have a defined particle shape and carry an image of text of microscopic proportions.
Hundreds in history
In 1739, Benjamin Franklin tackled counterfeiting in a Philadelphia printing company he owned to produce colonial notes with nature prints, using raised patterns cast from actual leaves to defeat fakes. A businessman with eclectic interests, Franklin invented bifocals, made maps and tinkered with electricity. An avid swimmer, he invented wooden flippers. He bought the struggling Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper from his boss and made it profitable.
In the 1800s before the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, private state-chartered or unchartered free banks in the United States issued their own $100 bills, redeemable in gold. Each bank’s note had its own distinctive look.
During the Civil War (1861-65), the United States issued legal-tender $100 bills with a green patterned back, known as greenbacks. The Confederacy had its own hundreds picturing a slave loading cotton into a wagon.
In 1865, the United States Secret Service was established to deter counterfeiting. By 1869, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began centralized printing of American notes.
In 1878, the U.S. Treasury issued $100 silver certificates that pictured James Monroe. A few years later a $100 bill bore the image of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1914 after the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, Benjamin Franklin’s picture was adopted for hundreds. By 1934, due to the Great Depression, the bills could no longer be redeemed in gold.
In 1918, the Federal Reserve Board issued currency in $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 denominations. All these were last printed in 1945 and discontinued in 1969 due to lack of use.
In the early 1990s, the $100 note gained anti-counterfeit features such as a metallic strip, security thread and micro-printing. By 1996, a major redesign featured watermarks that resembled holograms, tiny blue-and-red fibers, and responsiveness to black light. In 2013, the Federal Reserve issued the current $100 bills with 3-D security ribbon and inks with pigments developed by Santa Rosa’s Viavi Solutions.
■ According to the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, it’s OK to make and display color reproductions of bills if one-sided and less than 75 percent or more than 150 percent of original size. Files must be destroyed after use.
■ Adobe Photoshop is designed to detect counterfeiting attempts from scans of currency, and generate error messages.
■ The Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group includes 32 central banks and note-printing authorities, including the United States.
■ Manufacturing counterfeit U.S. currency violates a section of the United States Code and is punishable by fine or imprisonment up to 15 years, or both.
3-D security ribbon
Tilt note back and forth while focusing on blue ribbon. Bells change to 100s as they move. When you tilt note back and forth, bells and 100s move side to side. Tilt it side to side, they move up and down. The ribbon is woven into paper, not printed on it.
Bell in the inkwell
Tilt note to see color-shifting bell in copper inkwell change from copper to green, an effect which makes bell seem to appear and disappear within inkwell.
Tilt note to see numeral 100 in lower right corner shift from copper to green.
Bills in circulation, 2016
$1.2 trillion, 12 billion notes
$84 billion, 1.7 billion notes
$177 billion, 8.9 billion notes
$19 billion, 1.9 billion notes
$14 billion, 2.8 billion notes
$12 billion 12 billion notes
Source: Federal Reserve