The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter
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Read Jason Kersten's posts on the Penguin Blog.
The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family.
Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing.
In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind.
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woefully incomplete. Art did everything the way he remembered—mounting his plates on the roller, mixing his inks, and firing up the AB Dick—but as his first batch emerged on the delivery tray he didn’t see the bright, fine rectangles of mint that he remembered from the da Vinci days. Instead, he had a batch of purple bills. He turned off the press and went back to the ink palette, adding more green and yellow. But his next batch of bills was almost chartreuse and looked like they had been
time was the second-largest in the country and the fastest-growing system in the world. After riding the merry-go-round through transfer and processing units like Gurney, Moore, and Huntsville, he finally wound up at the Lopez State Jail, which was both geographically and spiritually the ass end of the system. Located at the southernmost tip of Texas in the town of Ed inburg, it sat twelve miles from the Mexican border, in a parched, three-hundred-acre parcel that the twelve hundred prisoners
into the automotive paint, then applied it to a sheet of newsprint. Once the paint dried, he took the sheet outside to study it under natural light. As he turned it again and again, he marveled at what he saw. The paint shifted seamlessly from green to silver, like electric skin on some exotic, iridescent beetle. WITH THE PEN AND OVI PROBLEMS SOLVED, Art took on the New Note’s most daunting challenge: the watermark. Ever since he’d first seen it that day at Barnes & Noble he’d known that
most tropical climates, and the glue had never quite dried. When he went back and inspected the rest of the stash, he found loose corners on many of them. He tried blow-drying them and taping them up to air conditioners and in front of fans. Nothing worked—the southern air was just too moist. He had to stop spending in Louisiana, and from then on he made a rule to never assemble his bills in a humid climate. One of Art’s friends from Chicago, Eric Reid, would learn that even bills made in dry
deals, a ledger listing the proceeds, and the Shanigans to testify to it. In spite of that, he’d offered her no time. “Do you understand what you are saying?” Judge Singleton pressed Anice. “That you wish to enter a plea of not guilty and proceed to trial?” “Yes.” “Very well,” said Judge Singleton, but he was far from convinced of her competency to stand trial. He ordered that Anice undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to proceeding. The assigned psychiatrist, Dr. Irvin Rothrock, found that