The United States Secret Service in southwest Georgia performs the service most commonly associated with it, the protection of current and former presidents and other dignitaries, but by and large its biggest focus here is the investigation of counterfeiting and other money-related crimes.
Secret Service special agent Dan Reicht told the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on October 17 that technology has enabled counterfeiters to come up with easier ways to print and circulate “funny money.” Printing options to duplicate currency used to be pretty limited, said Reicht, but now the low price and easy availability of state-of-the-art printers “enables everyone the ability to print” and challenges law-enforcement’s ability to investigate.
For example, Reicht said he is not a fan of the special pens often distributed to merchants that had to ability to detect counterfeit bills by testing the paper they were printed on. It’s often the case now, he explained, that counterfeiters take official bills, bleach out the denomination, and reprint them with a larger amount (such as changing a $10 bill into a $20 bill and so forth).
Newer currency has built-in security features such as watermarks and special colors that confirm its authenticity. (An security-enhanced $100 bill is set to debut soon, he said.) The Secret Service has a database of counterfeit money, so when a counterfeit bill is confiscated it can often be run through the database and its origin detected.
“We’re trying to give citizens (and businesses) a way to catch (false) bills before they suffer the loss,” said Reicht.
The Secret Service also investigates other kinds of financial fraud incidents, such as illegal wire transactions and suspected e-mail scams. Reicht urged that dollar bills be examined by holding them up to light and checking that the pictures match. If a $10 bill has Thomas Jefferson’s picture in the center but Abraham Lincoln’s photo becomes visible on the far-right when held to the light, then you know the bill isn’t legal.
The Secret Service has two different missions in southwest Georgia, said Reicht – personal security for President and Mrs. Carter and the investigative side – which are handled by different divisions. The Albany regional office’s coverage area encompasses 42 counties, he added.
Reicht noted that when the Carters are home in Plains and want to go out somewhere, such as to dine out or shop, an advance team always goes ahead to check out their destination.
Reicht is a veteran of 15 years with the Secret Service and has served in the New York office and on the Carter Presidential Detail. He is now assigned to the Albany Division.