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Identity & Community

Authorities Announce Arrest in International Counterfeiting Scheme

Deanna Garcia

A counterfeit $100 bill used in Pittsburgh last year has led federal authorities to an international counterfeiting scheme and resulted in charges against a 27-year-old U.S. citizen living in Uganda.

“These Ugandan-manufactured counterfeit bills were being passed in our neighborhoods; specifically Oakland, Carnegie, McCandless Township and other places,” said David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “It quickly spread to other cities throughout the country.”

Ryan Andrew Gustafson, 27, has been charged with conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States and counterfeiting acts committed outside the U.S. Hickton said those involved were producing $100, $50 and $20 bills, packaging them disguised as child sponsorship-type pamphlets and then shipping packages of the pamphlets to people they met through online forums.

The bill used in Pittsburgh led authorities to a man who had received several packages from Uganda that had been shipped to and picked up from the U.S. Post Office on the South Side; a fingerprint on one of the documents in a package was identified as belonging to Gustafson.

“The break in this case, which occurred in December of last year, was the passing of a lone $100 bill at Peet’s Coffee in Oakland,” said Hickton, “and it was the quick work of the Secret Service taking that event, which to some might seem like a small event, and were able to detect it.”

In total $1.8 million in fake notes were passed and seized in Uganda, in the U.S. $270,000 in counterfeit currency was passed and seized.

“The quick infiltration and disruption of U.S. trafficking networks served to protect our citizens from this financial threat and minimize the amount of fraud perpetrated in our region and within our borders,” said Eric Zahren, special agent in charge of the Secret Service Pittsburgh field office.

Hickton said Gustafson will be returned to the U.S. after Ugandan officials prosecute him on counterfeiting charges there. The complaint indicates Gustafson is also wanted by Kenyan authorities for unlawful possession of an unspecified gun and two electric stun guns. Ugandan and U.S. authorities also found counterfeit Euros, Indian rupees, and fake currency from Uganda, Congo and Ghana as well as materials to make credit cards when Gustafson was arrested.

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