The 70-year-old retiree who became America’s worst counterfeiter
In 1938, a New York cigar shop owner went to the bank to cash his daily profits.
As the teller sifted through the haul, she spotted an unusual $1 bill. It felt like cheap paper in her hands, the lettering was askew, and George Washington looked more like an animated corpse than a noble head of state. It was, no doubt, the worst counterfeit she’d seen in all her years.
The bill was sent to the United States Secret Service. Soon, thousands more just like it came pouring in, each more abysmal than the last.
For 10 years, agents searched far and wide for the source, launching the most extensive (and expensive) counterfeit investigation in American history. The culprit was deemed to be “the most successful counterfeiter of modern times” — a mastermind.
But the bills were made by no master: They were the work of a 73-year-old junk collector.