Most cases of counterfeiting don’t make it very far. Either consumers ignore the offer or never notice their product is a copy. False money is often caught immediately before an offender has the chance to profit.
However, the longer a case is able to hide itself and continue, the bigger the mess once it is uncovered. These are some of the major counterfeiting scandals in recent history.
Designer Products from China
Starting in the mid-2000s, the court system began to see a familiar face. Xu Ting, a 45 year old Chinese citizen turned U.S. resident, began receiving contact from the lawyers of major fashion brands. Ting had been operating an online site selling Chinese knock-offs of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other famous designers. After 8 years of sales, a federal judge ordered her to pay $6.9 million in damages to Gucci. Another 2009 ruling forced her to close several websites, in 2010 several brands opened another lawsuit over $2 million in fake handbag sales.
Because of its classification as a foodborne illness incident, this massive case of fraud has largely gone unnoticed. Commercially sold olive oil has a long history of forgery as lower quality oil may be sold at the price of extra virgin, or ingredients added to create a similar product. A 1981 outbreak of toxic oil syndrome occurred in Spain due to a manufacturer using industrial grade rapeseed oil and selling it as olive oil. Over 600 people were killed as a result, with thousands more suffering from permanent illnesses.
The Lavender Hill Mob
Although the name may be awesome, this small group of men almost destabilized the British economy with 50 million worth of counterfeit pound notes. Led by Stephen Jory, an already well known counterfeiter, and Kenneth Mainstone, a retired industrial printer, the two perfectly replicated British currency to their benefit. Before each member of the gang was taken down by Scotland Yard’s Operation Mermaid, the group had so much success they began expanding into stamp counterfeiting as well. With so much fake money floating in the economy, the Bank of England was forced to up security measures on its 20 pound note.
An Act of War
Though it’s nearly a century ago at this point, WW2 provides a startling example of just how effective counterfeiting can be. It isn’t just capable of swindling unsuspecting customers, it can destabilize entire governments and destroy the economy. The Nazi’s Operation Bernhard printed over $7 billion in today’s dollars of American and British currency. Money would be sifted in through spies and small transactions to knock inflation out of control, making their dollar worthless and unable to continue the war effort.