Daily Court Reporter - News Ohio House proposes counterfeiting legislation at urging of the Secret Service
Ohio House proposes counterfeiting legislation at urging of the Secret Service
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Ohio law enforcement agencies have always had to make do and charge offenders involved in counterfeiting crimes with the related offenses of forgery, criminal simulation or theft - the Ohio Revised Code includes no provision for the criminal offense.
A Beavercreek Republican in the Ohio House of Representatives is hopeful his bill and the backing of the U.S. Secret Service will aid in tamping down a significant rise in counterfeiting activities in the Buckeye State.
Rep. Rick Perales told members of the House Criminal Justice Committee the increase in counterfeiting offenses is tied directly to drug offenses and the opioid epidemic ravaging the state.
An estimate by Secret Service resident agents found that 85 percent of all counterfeiting investigations in Ohio are tied to illicit drug activity.
"There are few Ohioans who have not been touched by this travesty, either directly or indirectly through family, friends, and neighbors," Perales told his peers during sponsor testimony of House Bill 405. "At the heart of this epidemic is the underground economy that puts illegal money-making schemes over the welfare of our communities.
"Many may not realize that this issue floods Ohio with counterfeit currency by criminals that recognize the absence of a criminally enforceable law prohibiting such acts."
Perales said he expected the new law to set the standard for violations of manufacturing U.S. currency and credit/debit cards, which the Ohio Revised Code fails to address.
HB 405 clearly would identify criminal conduct associated with counterfeiting, aiding Ohio law enforcement officers and reducing the charging irregularities that currently exist throughout the state.
Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley, who also serves as president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, said the bill would make it easier to collaborate with federal agents in such investigations.
"By passing this legislation, agencies across Ohio will benefit by being able to simplify local charges and pursue criminal enterprises more effectively," he said.
Retired Columbus police officer and Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio Government Affairs Director Mike Weinman said the status quo creates unnecessary ambiguity.
"From a patrol officer's perspective, current law is difficult to apply when called out to a convenience store on a report of an individual trying to pass counterfeit money," Weinman said. "It isn't any easier for detectives when working cases that become complicated because of the myriad laws that may apply.
"Officers and detectives, alike, have to ask themselves ... if the offense is criminal tools, fraud, theft; what exactly fits the crime? You know a crime is being committed, but which one?
Standley confirmed Perales' assertion that counterfeiting and drug trafficking are linked.
"This is made possible by criminals simply purchasing color printers and good paper, then making fake bills to spread into the local economy," he said. "These bills, if not all collected simultaneously, then spread across transactions.
"This then makes it harder and harder to protect our communities of such a scheme. Each time a fake bill passes through, the number of victims increases."
Perales said his bill is every bit a part of the state's efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.
"We must make a difference for the thousands of families affected by this tragedy," the lawmaker continued. "We must address it from all fronts - prevention, enforcement, treatment and post-addiction care to name a few.
"This bill will address the previously untapped prevention aspect of counterfeiting. ... This legislation will hit the illicit trade where it hurts the most, while keeping counterfeit funds out of Ohio's economy."
Ohio is one of 10 states that does not have statutes specifically addressing counterfeiting.
HB 405, which has the cosponsor support of 11 fellow House members, was not scheduled for a third hearing as of publication.
Date Published: January 16, 2018