Orlando is being flooded with counterfeit US currency, mostly $100 notes, a friend in US federal law enforcement says.
The problem has become so serious that the Orlando office of the US Secret Service has a growing backlog of cases it has not started to investigate officially yet.
A very large percentage of the counterfeit $100 notes originate in Venezuela, a local branch manager in Orlando with one of the three top US banks says.
Over the past year, as Hugo Chavez shut down the parallel (permuta) market and asserted state control over all financial transfers, Florida’s tourism capitals of Miami and Orlando have been hit with a fast-growing flood of counterfeit US currency arriving from Venezuela.
“The other day three Venezuelans came into my branch with $10,000 between them in $100 notes and $5,000 were counterfeit,” the branch manager says.
“They had a very difficult time understanding that the bank was legally obligated to seize the counterfeit currency and give them nothing in return, not even copies of the reports that the bank files with the Secret Service,” the branch manager adds.
I found out personally about the counterfeit currency problem in Orlando very recently when we did the family theme park tour (a.k.a. blisters, backaches and busted budgets).
We arrived in Orlando with $4,000 in $100 notes purchased in Caracas, visited our local US bank branch to grow our savings a bit, and $1,200 were counterfeit bills that were confiscated immediately by the bank.
A report on each bogus bill was forward the same day to the US Secret Service, and two days later I chatted by telephone with the “duty officer” at the Orlando office of the Secret Service.
The agent confirmed that the 12 bills taken from me by the bank were counterfeit, but said that an investigation would not be opened for “a couple of months or longer… we’re backlogged.”
The bank branch manager said that the recent increase in counterfeit US currency taken from Venezuelan nationals in the Orlando area is unlike anything he has experienced in 17 years of retail banking.
I asked the branch manager, “But what about the special marker pens that detect counterfeit notes?”
These pens are used in Venezuela by lots of folks buying US currency on the black market to confirm that the bills they are purchasing are the real deal.
“Useless,” he replied. “They don’t work.”