FRANK BOURASSA IS AN AMUSED, easygoing man of 44 whose standard answer, when you ask him why he beat up such-and-such a person, or got stabbed by so-and-so, or committed this or that felony, is “I don’t know, I guess for fun.” On a website he recently launched, Frank describes himself as an “insane million making Master earner,” though he does not necessarily look like an insane million-making master earner. He is a shortish guy with a nocturnal, indoorsy complexion and a faux-hawk hairdo that sometimes looks fussed over but usually not. He has a big belly that started coming into focus a few years back, during his house arrest for a pot charge. He favors old T-shirts and complicated jeans with lots of pockets and zippers, which, actually, probably did set him back a buck or two. He drives an aging Mitsubishi Eclipse in which I think I counted three different apparatuses for affixing Oakley-style sunglasses to the flip-down visors. You see, an insane master earner who makes his millions by illegitimate means “can’t just drive around in a Ferrari,” Frank explained.
“If I need a luxury car, there are luxury cars I can use, but most of everything I buy, I have to go through somebody else. You have to have discipline, or otherwise you get caught. I’m a silent partner in many things.”
Frank’s self-image may be described as not merely healthy but hyperpituitary. When I asked him where he found the lunatic gumption not only to enter into the risky business of counterfeiting but to do so at the unheard-of scale of hundreds of millions of dollars, Frank replied with a shrug: “I can do anything I want. I can go to the moon. I’m good at figuring out stuff. I could do a heart transplant if I wanted to.”
Are we to take Frank at his word? Should he be allowed by NASA to attempt a lunar landing? Should he perform your father’s triple bypass? I will say only this: Do not discount someone who apparently launched a currency-fraud scheme so cunning that he was able to rook the Secret Service and the Canadian government and then walk away from the whole mess a free and wealthy man.
This is what he did.
WHEN MOST PEOPLE look at a dollar bill, we don’t see a material object; we see magicâ€”a totem embodying luck, labor, destiny, and one’s essential value compared with that of the guy next door. Or if we look at money practically and technically, we see such a profusion of security features as to make the notion of faking one a ludicrous impossibility. But as Frank began delving into the matter, his research bore out a simple but life-altering revelation: Limitless wealth was a craft project. Frank started loitering in counterfeiters’ chat rooms. He paid a few visits to the U.S. Secret Service’s website, which, handily, offers an in-depth illustrated guide to serial numbers, watermarks, plate numbers, and all the other fussy obstacles to the counterfeiter’s art. “It would be difficult, but obviously currency is made by human hands, so it would be physically possible to do,” Frank said. “But I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’ll go big or go home.”
Serious counterfeiters do not spend their money themselves but instead sell in bulk, and the going rate for a good bill, the Internet informed Frank, was 30 percent of face value. He reasoned that if he was going to put himself through the hassle and expense of buying supplies and so on, he should print enough in a single batch to leave himself set for life. He figured something in the $200 million range would suffice. It should be stated plainly that by the standards of most counterfeiters, printing $200-plus million is not going bigâ€”it is going insane. In fact, the hubristic volume of the operation would prove, in ways Frank did not intend, to be a major blessing in later days, when Frank’s fortune would take a turn for the worse.
Drawing on cautionary news reports of failed counterfeiters, Frank sketched out a set of best-practice guidelines for his new concern. First, “don’t ever try to pass the money yourself. You want to be as far away as possible from where the money’s being spent.” Second, “don’t sell your stuff to anyone who’s going to be passing it locally. I knew from the beginning, I needed to sell my bills to Europe or Asia.” Third, resist the temptation to print big bills. “Do twenties. It’s stupid to try to pass hundred-dollar bills anymore. People look at them all day long, hold it up to the light and everything. Nobody looks twice at a twenty.” Fourth, don’t cheap out. Most of the people who try their luck at counterfeiting do so by breathtakingly broke-dick means, with stuff you can buy at Office Depot.
“Can you make bills on a $50 ink-jet? Sure, if you want to get busted right away,” said Frank. “All the security features in a bill are basically there to stop broke fucking-moron assholes who are trying to do their thing on an ink-jet. I knew if I wanted to succeed, my bills had to be as perfect as possible, as close as possible to the way the bills are actually made.”
I canâ€™t wait till the story of the entire counterfeiting ring comes out.