Authorities arrested three Peruvians and an Italian they say were involved in fabricating fake dollars and planning to export them to the United States, shining a light on Peru's lucrative counterfeit dollar trade.
The arrests were made in two separate districts of capital city Lima, reported El Comercio. Police also seized about $836,000 in fake dollar bills, which the group was allegedly planning to smuggle in suitcases to New York.
According to El Comercio, police said the group formed part of an international ring of counterfeit money producers.
Peru 21 reported that the group may be linked to a drug trafficker operating in Peru's Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys, a region known as the VRAEM. An unnamed source in the police special investigative unit for counterfeit money told Peru 21 that this drug trafficker is known as "Crazy Alfredo," and has been involved in the counterfeit money trade for at least two years.
Alfredo was drawn to the illicit trade because it is "cheaper" than producing and smuggling cocaine, the source told Peru 21. Sending the shipment of fake dollar bills to the US would require an investment of about $30,000, which includes the $2,500 price of paying a smuggler and covering the smuggler's travel costs. Once the fake cash reached the US, Alfredo's criminal group could expect to make about $20,000 for every $100,000 worth of false bills -- in other words, a total profit of $130,000 for a shipment of $800,000 in fake dollars. In contrast, a kilo of cocaine sold in the US -- far riskier to produce and export -- would bring in an estimated profit of $25,000, the source told Peru 21.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the VRAEM is Peru's premier hub for cocaine production and smuggling, it would nevertheless be unsurprising if a drug trafficker based there decided to get involved in another type of illicit activity. Counterfeit money production in particular is a big business in Peru, with forgers producing fake dollars destined for Venezuela, Ecuador, and elsewhere.
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There has been little prior evidence to suggest that many VRAEM-based drug traffickers see counterfeit dollar production as more profitable than the drug trade. Until very recently, Peru was the world's top producer of coca, much of which is sourced from the remote jungle region. There may even be corrupt factions within Peru's military that are profiting handsomely off the VRAEM drug trade, as highlighted in a recent Associated Press report, with some officers allegedly charging $10,000 for every drug flight that takes off or lands in the area.