The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter
Read Jason Kersten's posts on the Penguin Blog.
The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family.
Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing.
In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind.
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crazy,” Giorgi says of his status. “My whole life, people have come up to me and given me money. For nothing. For being somebody’s grandson. It’s bizarre, but I’d have to be stupid not to appreciate that.” Art had witnessed the power of Giorgi’s family firsthand at the age of thirteen, when he unwittingly stole a Cadillac belonging to Giorgi’s dad and was quickly arrested. Giorgi accompanied his dad down to the station, where he saw Art, who was three years younger than him, sitting in handcuffs
identities, she called in dozens of samples, then tested them with the Dri Mark pen. Weeks of disappointment followed as sample after sample marked black. She grew increasingly exasperated as Art, convinced that a ready-made paper was out there, constantly badgered her to try more companies. “He acted like it was my fault we weren’t finding the paper,” she says, “I wasn’t calling the right companies or looking in the right places.” And then one day, after listening to Art complain once again that
wasn’t surprised when Reid nervously approached him one day and asked if he could buy a few thousand dollars. He and some buddies had long been planning a trip to Jamaica. Given that it was a foreign country, he figured that no one would be wise. “Eric was such a nice guy, I told him I wouldn’t sell them to him, but that I’d throw him enough to have fun with. This was when it was fall. It wasn’t hot or humid. I was able to do my thing and they came out beautiful. So I gave him four thousand
he said. “I brought it into your life. I shouldn’t have. We wouldn’t be here if I had just left it behind.” “Look, it ain’t your fault,” his old man insisted. “I knew better. I should have ended it.” “I’m sorry anyway.” Senior tried to change the subject by asking Art about how he was holding up, the jail conditions, whether he was eating enough. Art told him that everything was great. Silence crept in. Eventually they got around to the subject of the cases. Art finally heard from his father’s
guilty or not guilty, Mrs. Williams.” “I’m not guilty.” Eugene Cyrus, Anice’s lawyer, was standing right next to her at the time. Like everyone else he had assumed her guilty plea was a done deal; he now found himself in the unfortunate position of having won for his client a very good arrangement—only to watch her double down on a terrible hand. And Bottini wasn’t just unhappy, but incensed. By any legal assessment he had been merciful toward Anice. He had her on tape arranging counterfeit