Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Idiot of the Week

The phony $1 million bill, presented at a Clearwater, S.C. bank earlier this week. Police report that the "currency" was actually a religious tract, printed by a Texas ministry last year, and seized by federal authorities, due to its similarities to real money (photo from the Aiken, S.C. Standard)

It's been a while since we've bestowed an "Idiot of the Week" Award, though we were sorely tempted during Britney Spears' various travails. Still, we have our standards, and refuse to settle for low-hanging celebrity fruit among the terminally stupid. So, we pressed on with our search, and found someone who is genuinely deserving of the title--and isn't followed by a flock of paparazzi.

With apologies to Ms. Spears, we located a truly worthy candidate in Clearwater, South Carolina, a small town near Augusta, Georgia. According to the Aiken Standard, 31-year-old Alexander Smith walked into a Clearwater bank on Monday, and tried to open an account. For his initial deposit, Mr. Smith offered a single, $1 million bill.

There was only one small problem, as you might have guessed.

The federal government has never printed a $1 million dollar bill; Mr. Smith's rumpled note was an obvious forgery. A bank employee refused to open the account and called police, while Smith started cursing at other bank workers. He was apparently still in the bank when the cops arrived and arrested him.

Turns out that the phony $1 million bill wasn't Smith's only adventure in forgery. Before visiting the bank, he used a stolen check to buy several cartons of cigarettes from a nearby grocery store. We're guessing that the cops seized the smokes as evidence, so Mr. Smith will have to find another way to feed that nicotine addiction during his stay in the Big House.

For his creative try at forgery--without checking to see if his bogus bill actually exists--Alexander Smith is a worthy "Idiot of the Week."


A follow-up report from Standard staff writer Karen Daley indicates that police still don't know where Smith picked up the phony currency. But, the bogus bill was once issued as a religious tract, by a Denton, Texas-based ministry. Federal agents seized at least 8,000 of the "tracts" in June 2006, after someone tried to deposit one in a North Carolina bank. While the ministry objected to the seizure, a federal judge ruled that the $1 million notes could be confiscated, since they are the same size as Federal Reserve notes, and were printed with peach-and-green inks similar to those used in the new currency.

The ministry's attorneys argued that no one could mistake the tracts for real money, but there have been at least three instances where individuals have tried to deposit them. In addition to the cases in South Carolina and North Carolina, another bogus $1 million bill was presented at a Pittsburgh bank last month. All of the banks refused the phony currency and notified police. The phony notes bear the likeness of President Grover Cleveland.

For the record, Mr. Cleveland's portrait has appeared on $20 bills printed in 1914, and all $1000 small-sized federal reserve notes. Cleveland's visage can also be found on $1000 gold certificate series from 1928 and 1934.

And, if it's any consolation to our readers in the Palmetto State, we should point out that Mr. Smith is a resident of Georgia, not South Carolina. Let the interstate jokes and insults begin.

1 comment:

Andrew Zalotocky said...

Not bad, but he's a mere amateur compared to these guys.