From 2014 to 2016, the Integrated Counterfeit Enforcement Team (ICET) in Quebec identified a counterfeiting network that was making and uttering bogus $100 banknotes from the Birds of Canada and Scenes of Canada series.
The ring was operating in the Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City and Lévis areas, but the bills made it as far as Beauce, Mauricie, Estrie and Montérégie. Circulation of the counterfeit notes hurt small and medium enterprises in the targeted areas, and was also a hard hit to the Canadian economy.
This ICET operation, called Project Coupon, was a joint venture with the Sûreté du Québec, the police services of Terrebonne, Laval, Montreal, Longueuil, Lévis and Quebec City, the U.S. Secret Service, the National Anti-Counterfeiting Bureau (NACB) and the Bank of Canada.
In early 2014, police were seizing a growing number of phoney $100 bills. Short staffed, ICET was already involved in two major investigations. But the impact on the economy was such that stopping the counterfeiters became a priority.
Despite the team's limited human resources, the counterfeiting ring was taken down thanks to the co-operation and sharing of information between the RCMP, the Bank of Canada and most notably the police services in Quebec. Three individuals were charged with making, possessing and uttering counterfeit money, and four labs were dismantled.
The NACB announced in March 2017 that 9,689 counterfeit banknotes related to the investigation had been passed, representing a face value of nearly $1 million, and that 4,198 bills had been seized, totalling $419,800. The grand total was close to $1.4 million.
According to statistics, only 1,220 counterfeit Birds of Canada banknotes were passed in 2016, compared to 9,555 in 2014. From January to May 2016, a total of 1,154 fake Scenes of Canada banknotes were passed, compared to a mere 207 during the rest of the year, following the arrests in June 2016.
The Bank of Canada explained that a single counterfeit $100 bill can affect a day's profits or lead to increased prices that are eventually passed on to the consumer.
The investigation protected one of the very foundations of Canada's economy — its currency — against further loss at the hands of these counterfeiters. Thanks to the hard work and actions of investigators and their partners, this counterfeiting ring was completely dismantled.
It was also an opportunity for the RCMP and Bank of Canada to educate and raise awareness among merchants and the general population about these two series of banknotes, through kiosks, training and door-to-door canvassing.
The outcome of this investigation is a step in the right direction towards combatting counterfeiters and protecting banking institutions, the Canadian economy and citizens nationwide.