By Daniel Wallis
An American man has been arrested in Uganda and accused by US prosecutors of counterfeiting more than $2 million in fake dollars, some of which were to be mailed to the United States hidden in charity pamphlets, court papers showed.
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, 27, is charged with conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, according to a criminal complaint filed on Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The US Secret Service, whose agents investigate financial crime worldwide, said on Thursday it supported an operation by Ugandan police who arrested Gustafson earlier this week at his home in a suburb of the capital Kampala.
“The Secret Service will continue to dismantle criminal networks that seek to victimize American and international citizens or denigrate our national currency, regardless of geographic distance or border,” Paul Morrissey, its assistant director of investigations, said in a statement.
Gustafson is also charged in Uganda with possession and dealing in counterfeit currency, as well as unlawful possession of ammunition. His local lawyer, named by media there as Isaac Walukagga, could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the US criminal complaint, detectives recovered computers, printers, paper and ink from the home, as well as tens of thousands of dollars in fake currencies, blank credit cards, and two Taser guns.
Some of the counterfeit bills were glued between pages of pamphlets entitled Give a Child Hope Today, it said.
Prosecutors say Gustafson, also known as Jack Farrel and Willy Clock, offered the notes for sale via an online forum he ran called Community-X, and that he wore rubber gloves while preparing the packages so as not to leave fingerprints.
It was not immediately clear where in the United States Gustafson comes from. The criminal complaint said a Texas identification card and a Colorado driver’s license in his name were found during Monday’s raid.
The US Secret Service said the investigation began in December last year over counterfeit dollars found in Pittsburgh. It said about $1.8 million in fake notes have been seized and passed in Uganda and neighboring countries to date. A further $270,000 was seized or passed in the United States.
“The early infiltration and disruption of Gustafson’s US trafficking network limited the total amount of counterfeit funds passed within the United States,” the Secret Service said.
It said the case continues pending further investigation and judicial action.