Last week, Los Angeles Times reported on a story about the business of counterfeit money. Sold through the dark web in exchange for Bitcoin, there are plenty of vendors to choose from. But one stood out, attracting the interest of the US Secret Service. And a cat-and-mouse investigation followed.
Reportedly, the Secret Service made more than a thousand arrests in the past year for counterfeit currency. One near arrest in 2018 concerned a man of several aliases, known best as Billmaker on the dark web, for his superb ability to reproduce $100 bills. “The bogus Benjamins had a decent fake security strip. They even felt real,” wrote LA Times.
Billmaker worked at keeping his sterling reputation. But then the Secret Service came along. They bought four $100 bills for $120 of Bitcoin. In the process, they discovered he offered free package tracking through the US mail–which became the start of his undoing. And with that, the agents were able to start putting pieces of the puzzle together.
They soon realized he was Daniel Johnson, a known counterfeiter who had previously had brushes with the law and had served time for selling counterfeit versions of Microsoft Office. After being arrested again in 2016, he got out on bond, rejected a plea deal, and then disappeared.
“After falling off the map, Billmaker suddenly had popped up on other dark web marketplaces. In January 2018, agents bought four fake $100 bills from him. They did it again in April,” said LA Times.
Johnson was considered to be potentially dangerous, given that he was known to collect firearms. Unfortunately, when the agents closed in on him, a gunfight ensued. He was killed in the process.
A search of his house uncovered $300,000 in fake $100 bills and encrypted computers. But according to LA Times, the Secret Service has not been able to access them.
Questions lingered, including where the bitcoin resided. At the time of Johnson’s death, authorities found a thumb drive on him, which held screen captures of text messages that officials believe could be a key to a bitcoin or computer vault. Even so, there’s no certainty that they’ll be able to recover information sought.
Because, you know, security.
Get the full story at Los Angeles Times.