Four U.S. citizens have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for their alleged roles in an international Federal Reserve Notes (FRN) counterfeiting operation based out of Uganda, according to a Thursday release from the Department of Justice.
Ryan Gustafson – who is currently incarcerated and facing charges in Uganda – is charged alongside Zackary Ruiz, Jeremy Miller, and Michael Lin with conspiracy and counterfeiting acts committed in and out of the U.S.
Gustafson allegedly set up Community-X in December 2013, a website on the dark web that was “dedicated to the manufacturing, selling, buying, distribution and passing of counterfeit [FRNs], which [Gustafson] claimed to have manufactured,” the release stated, citing the indictment.
The Community-X website evolved in September 2014 after Gustafson allegedly split it into two separate sites – one a Community-X HQ with controlled access, and another a Community-X Recruitment Center that was publicly accessible.
Gustafson, Ruiz and Miller were allegedly active members of both sites, while Lin was only a member of the Recruitment Center, the Justice Department noted in the release.
“Gustafson and others allegedly sold these [Ugandan-made] counterfeit FRNs to purchasers in the U.S.,” the release said. “From December 2013 through February 2014, an associate of Gustafson sent DHL packages containing these counterfeit FRNs to individuals in the U.S. After February 2014, Gustafson had the counterfeit FRNs smuggled into the U.S. by hiding the counterfeit FRNs in glued together pages of fake charity pamphlets.”
Ruiz, Miller and Lin allegedly had different roles in the operation, the Justice Department release indicated. Ruiz allegedly unpacked the counterfeit FRNs and – along with Miller – treated, prepared and mailed the counterfeit FRNs via the U.S. Postal Service to re-shippers and purchasers. Lin was allegedly a purchaser, and also helped in passing the phony notes in casinos.
“The indictment alleges more than $1.4 million in counterfeit FRNs have been seized and passed worldwide, both overseas and in the U.S. as part of this scheme,” the release said.
The maximum prison sentence for a conspiracy count is five years, the maximum prison sentence for a conspiracy to commit money laundering count is 20 years, and the maximum prison sentence for each passing and receiving counterfeit money count is also 20 years, the Justice Department noted.