George Washington’s face, basic math should have been tip-offs.
Following a multi-year investigation, police in Japan have announced the arrest of a man they believe to be the final member of a trio of counterfeiters who swindled a woman out of six million yen (roughly US$54,500 at current exchange rates). When presented with fake currency, it can be hard for ordinary citizens to tell it’s not genuine, and no doubt making that even more difficult was the fact that the victim, a 72-year-old woman from Nagoya, was offered foreign currency, specifically U.S. dollars, for purchase.
However, no matter how close the font, layout, or coloring may be to authentic American cash, it was still a bold move by the counterfeiters to offer her the chance to purchase one-million-dollar bills, seeing as those don’t exist.
Nevertheless, Nagoya Prefectural Police allege that between August and October of 2011, the group approached the woman with the “opportunity” to purchase million-dollar bills, which bore the face of George Washington on their front, claiming they would make a great investment. The woman swallowed their story hook, line, and sinker, before going on to swallow the rod and reel as well when she purchased not just one, but four million-dollar bills.
Again, it can be very easy for counterfeiters to trick victims into thinking fake foreign currency, which they’re not accustomed to seeing or using, is legit. However, the woman could have avoided trouble with a few punches on a calculator. According to the police report, the group offered the million-dollar bills to the woman at a price of 1.5 million yen, which converts to only US$19,157 using the exchange rate from October 2011. An offer to buy what’s supposed to be legal tender at less than two percent of its face value should already seem too good to be true, but the numbers get even fishier from there.
The woman also says that she was told that within a year, the million-dollar bills, which were being sold for 1.5 million yen each, would appreciate in value to 45 million yen each. But even if that were true, 45 million yen (at the time the woman bought the bills) would only convert to US$574,713. Sure, that’d be a 2,900-percent return on her initial investment, but it still means that even if everything went done exactly as the counterfeiters told her it would, she’d still be selling her million-dollar bills for just a little over half their face value.
The fact that the woman still took the men up on their offer, despite the investment opportunity’s best-case scenario having her throw away over a million dollars’ worth of value, suggests that age-diminished mental facilities may have been a factor in her decision. This isn’t necessarily a case of cunning young criminals praying on the elderly, though. After the woman reported the situation to the Nagoya Prefectural Police in 2015, two of men who had sold her the counterfeit bills were arrested, and their statements led the authorities to Katsutaka Nakamura, a resident of living in Osaka Prefecture’s Toyonaka City, whom police believe is the third member of the group.
As is customary for Japanese police reports, the suspect’s job, or lack thereof, was included. Nakamura is designated as unemployed, but the more accurate term might be “retired,” seeing as how he’s 82 years old.
So remember, kids. Don’t trust everything your elders tell you, at least not without some quick Googling or number crunching first.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he also advises against buying any Guamanian dollars, no matter how good an exchange rate someone offers you.