Federal Counterfeiting Charges in New York: An Overview
Counterfeiting is a serious federal crime that involves making fake versions of valuable items like money, designer goods, or pharmaceuticals. While counterfeiting may seem harmless on the surface, it can have major consequences under federal law. This article provides an overview of federal counterfeiting laws and potential penalties for counterfeiting crimes committed in New York.
What is Counterfeiting Under Federal Law?
The federal government has laws prohibiting various types of counterfeiting, including:
- Counterfeiting currency or financial instruments – This involves making fake US currency, treasury bonds, bank notes, checks, etc. The main laws for currency counterfeiting are 18 USC 471 and 472.
- Counterfeiting trademarks and goods – This covers making knock-off or pirated designer items, purses, watches, clothing, electronics, etc. The main law is 18 USC 2320.
- Counterfeiting drugs or healthcare products – Making fake prescription drugs, medical devices, or other healthcare products is illegal under 18 USC 2320 as well.
To be guilty of federal counterfeiting, a person has to intentionally manufacture, use, or possess the counterfeit item knowing it is fake. Simply buying a knock-off purse on the street would not necessarily be a crime. But making large quantities with intent to deceive or sell is illegal.
Penalties for Federal Counterfeiting Crimes in NY
The penalties for federal counterfeiting depend on the nature and scope of the crime:
- Counterfeit currency – This can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine under 18 USC 471. Making counterfeit plates or tools for currency can get up to 25 years. 
- Counterfeit goods – Trafficking over $1000 of fake goods under 18 USC 2320 can get up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine. For counterfeit military or medical goods, it is up to 20 years. 
- Repeat offenses – Getting convicted again of counterfeiting can lead to up to 25 years in prison. 
In addition to prison time, counterfeiting offenses may also result in:
- Fines equal to twice the financial gain from the crime
- Probation or supervised release
- Forfeiture of assets involved in the crime
- Restitution to victims of the offense
Federal Counterfeiting Investigations and Charges
While state police may conduct small counterfeiting busts, most federal cases are investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. They have officers stationed in the New York field office who look into fake currency and financial instruments. 
To bring charges, federal prosecutors have to prove a few key elements:
- The defendant intentionally made, used, or trafficked in counterfeit goods.
- They knew the items were counterfeit.
- They intended to defraud or deceive people/businesses.
- The counterfeit items met a minimum dollar amount threshold.
- 18 USC 471 – Counterfeiting US currency or financial obligations
- 18 USC 472 – Possessing or passing counterfeit US currency
- 18 USC 2320 – Trafficking in counterfeit goods or services
Consequences of a Federal Conviction
Being convicted of a federal counterfeiting felony can negatively impact your life in many ways beyond just prison time. Some potential consequences include:
- Having a permanent criminal record
- Loss of certain civil rights like voting and gun ownership
- Difficulty finding future employment
- Potential deportation for non-citizen residents
- Bar from certain professions requiring licensing
- Financial hardships from fines and restitution
Seeking an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Given the serious penalties for federal counterfeiting crimes, having an experienced defense lawyer is critical. An attorney can examine the case against you, advise you on possible defenses, and represent your best interests in negotiating with prosecutors or at trial. Be sure to seek out a lawyer with specific experience handling federal counterfeiting cases in New York. With an aggressive legal defense, many of these complex cases can ultimately result in reduced charges or even dismissals. Consult with a lawyer right away if you are being investigated for or charged with federal counterfeiting.