Right in the middle of a residential part of El Salvador,
this massive operation has been going on for years,
and it is estimated that there are over $30 million dollars
in fake currency
stashed in this one little place.
According to the US Secret Service,
Peru is the number one producer of counterfeit dollars in the world.
Criminal gangs have also been caught making millions
of Euros and fake Peruvian Soles.
That pickup truck over there is just loaded with boxes
with fake notes, like, probably millions
in fake notes.
And there’s more and more and more being packed right there.
It’s actually so heavy that the tires are deflating already.
The first Peruvian-made counterfeit dollar was detected in the United States back in 2003.
Since then, the illicit trade has grown exponentially.
Last year, US authorities identified just over 16 million fake dollars of Peruvian origin.
Widespread counterfeiting has the potential to undermine the value of the currency,
putting small business owners and unsuspecting US shoppers at risk.
We wanted to find out how easy it was to get hold of top-quality fake dollars.
Lima’s old center and the notorious Azangaro Street are well known hubs for forgeries.
This is where we began the search for the best counterfeit dollar notes in the city.
After a few inquiries, we were introduced to Mario.
His eight minutes turned into two hours, so we decided to go for a ride, and then met him at different parking lot.
Despite the mutual edginess, we managed to finalize a deal.
The idea was to use this purchase as a starting point to develop a relationship with Mario.
These four $50 notes are the ones that the guy just gave us right now.
To my uneducated eye, these ones here — the ones that we just got,
look actually of much better quality than this one, which is actually badly cut at the border.
And then of course there is this $100 note that the guy just gave us that doesn’t look convincing at all.
So now it’s time to test the notes we’ve got.
Along with Peru’s local currency, US dollars are also widely accepted in many of Lima’s shops and restaurants.
We went back to see Mario to tell him that the quality of the forgeries he sold us was not good enough.
He called a contact, whom he assured could get us better merchandise.
Mario went off to call some other contacts, but after the recent bust,
getting people from his network to start selling again was proving difficult.
We kept meeting up with Mario, who offered us different qualities of forged dollars.
Eventually, he came up what he described as the best counterfeit $100 bills on the market.
They actually did look very real. So we agreed to buy them.
I paid Mario the equivalent to 180 real US dollars for 2000 counterfeit ones.
The poorer areas on Lima’s outskirts are the main hub for the production of counterfeit money.
Illegal printing facilities and safehouses where forgers worked are regularly busted by the police.
Police caught this gang trying to smuggle fake dollars into the US.
A liter is a slang term for $100,000 in counterfeit notes
We met with Mario again.
I wanted to know how I could smuggle the notes he had given us into the United States.
He said he had contact, a book binder who would conceal the notes inside the cover of a book.
I followed his advice and bought a book about Peruvian cocktails.
However, the day before we were due to meet the book binder, the police raided Azangaro Street.
The book binder was caught and arrested with dozens of forged documents.
A few days later, the book binder was released.
I suggested we meet at a hotel where we had installed secret cameras.
Mario and the book binder seemed rather uneasy on arrival, and looked around the room,
seemingly trying to spot hidden cameras.
We had managed to buy some of the best fake dollars on Lima’s black market.
The high quality of the forgery is why Peru leads the world in counterfeit note production.
We wanted to find out how these notes are actually made.
We went to see Oscar, who works at a printing house in Lima.
He was going to demonstrate the first stage of forging a note — the printing.
Cotton paper is hard to obtain, and is also considerably more expensive than bond paper.
We wanted to see for ourselves the finishing techniques used to make fake notes believable.
After months of chasing leads and meeting different counterfeiters,
finally we managed to convince an expert in the craft to let us film him at work.
This is the $20 note that he just finished,
and this is the one, an original one, and they do look pretty similar.
And they both have this texture he was explaining me about.
So this is it.
Lima’s fake money.
Despite police efforts, for each counterfeiter caught, dozens more remained undetected.
And even when caught, many forgers usually pay their way out of police custody, or serve lenient prison sentences.
With more and more people learning the skills required to forge a note,
it’s unlikely that the output of Peruvian fake dollars will stop anytime soon.