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27 Nov 23

‘Washing’ Real Money to Make Higher Denominations is Illegal

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 10:21 am

 

‘Washing’ Money to Make Higher Denominations is Illegal

Hey there! Today we’re gonna be talking about something called ‘washing’ money. Now I know that sounds kinda weird, but basically it means trying to turn lower denominations of cash into higher ones. For example, trying to turn a $1 bill into a $100 bill. I know, pretty crazy right? The big question is – is this legal or not? Well, I’ve got the answer for ya below. Stick with me and we’ll break it all down together!

The Short Answer

Alright, let’s not beat around the bush here. The short answer is no – ‘washing’ cash to increase its face value is very much illegal. There are a bunch of laws against it, both at the federal and state level. It’s considered a form of counterfeiting, which is obviously a big no-no. The government and the courts take a pretty dim view of people trying to essentially manufacture their own money. So if you were thinking of trying this, I’d strongly advise against it unless you want to risk ending up in prison!

The Longer Answer

Now that we’ve got the basic answer out of the way, let me break things down a bit more. There’s actually a bunch of different laws that make ‘washing’ money illegal. Let’s start with some federal statutes.

Federal Laws

At the federal level, there are two main laws that apply here:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 471 – This law prohibits making, forging, or counterfeiting any obligation or security of the United States. Essentially it bans counterfeiting money.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 472 – This law prohibits passing, uttering, publishing, selling, possessing, or keeping any counterfeit obligations or securities of the United States. So it bans dealing in fake money.

When you try to ‘wash’ lower denominations and turn them into higher ones, you are essentially counterfeiting money. So both these laws likely apply and make it a federal crime. The penalties can be pretty harsh too – up to 20 years in prison!

State Laws

In addition to federal law, most states also have their own laws prohibiting money counterfeiting and forgery. For example, here in California we have:

  • California Penal Code § 470 – Bans forging, counterfeiting, and possession of counterfeit items, including money.
  • California Penal Code § 476 – Bans making, passing, or possessing fictitious bills, notes, or checks.
  • California Penal Code § 480 – Bans making, forging, or altering any public seal or document.
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So in California, ‘washing’ money would likely violate these state laws as well. And most other states have similar statutes on the books. Bottom line – it’s illegal pretty much everywhere!

How People Try to ‘Wash’ Money

Now you might be wondering, how do people even try to ‘wash’ money anyway? Well, there’s a couple main methods crooks use to try and increase the face value of cash:

  • Bleaching – This involves bleaching out the ink on a lower denomination bill to remove the original number. Then trying to redraw and print a higher number.
  • Printing – Using printers and scanners to scan a higher denomination, then print that image onto a lower one.
  • Physical Alteration – Literally gluing or taping a higher number onto a lower bill. Like sticking a 100 onto a 1.

As you can imagine, these methods – especially bleaching and printing – can sometimes result in pretty convincing fakes. But they’re still considered counterfeiting under the law. And if the authorities catch someone, they’ll be facing felony charges for sure.

Defenses People Have Tried

When people get busted for ‘washing’ money, some have tried to claim that what they were doing was legal. But the courts have rejected all these arguments. Here’s some of the defenses that have failed:

  • Just Renovating – Defendants have argued they were merely “renovating” the money, not counterfeiting. But courts see altering face values as counterfeiting.
  • Still Real Currency – People have claimed that since it’s still real US currency, it’s legal. But any alteration of face value is counterfeiting per the law.
  • Never Passed It – Some have said they hadn’t tried passing the washed bills yet. But just creating and possessing them is illegal.

The bottom line is that any attempt to change a bill’s denomination, no matter the method, will be seen as counterfeiting and forgery by the justice system. So these defenses just don’t hold up.

Why It’s Illegal

At this point you might be wondering – hey, what’s the big deal? Why is washing money so illegal anyway? Well there’s a few good reasons:

  • It’s essentially creating fake currency, which governments don’t take kindly to.
  • It messes with the economy when people introduce fake bills.
  • It erodes trust in currency and the government that issues it.
  • It can enable other criminal activity if people can manufacture untraceable cash.

So in short, it threatens the stability and legitimacy of a nation’s financial system. That’s why it’s taken so seriously by the authorities. Counterfeiting laws are there to protect the integrity of currency.

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The Ethical Side

Beyond just being illegal, most people see ‘washing’ money as unethical. Even if you could get away with it, you’d be cheating and deceiving anyone who ended up with those altered bills. It violates principles of fairness, honesty, and trust. Getting easy money through deception usually doesn’t sit right with people morally speaking. So ethics provide another reason to avoid it.

The Verdict

Alright, let’s wrap this all up. The verdict is: ‘washing’ cash or otherwise altering it to increase face value is very much illegal. You can get hit with federal and state counterfeiting and forgery charges. The penalties are severe, including years in prison. People have tried various defenses to justify it, but courts see it as counterfeiting plain and simple. And beyond just being illegal, most agree it’s unethical and harms financial systems. So do yourself a favor and don’t bother trying – the risks absolutely aren’t worth the potential rewards. The smart move is to just earn and use money honestly!

Well there ya have it! I know that was a boatload of info, but I wanted to cover this topic fully. Let me know if you have any other money-related questions! I’m always happy to chat more about this kinda stuff. Cheers for now!

References

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/471
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/472
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=470.&lawCode=PEN
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=476.&lawCode=PEN
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=480.&lawCode=PEN