The Salt Lake Tribune published an interview with Jason Kersten, author of the book The Art of Making Money about master counterfeiter Art Williams. -Editor New York City-based writer Jason Kersten is one of the happy breed of scribes lucky enough to turn a Rolling Stone assignment into a book, and may yet prove lucky enough to turn that into a full-length film, as his book has been optioned by Paramount Pictures.
For now, however, Kersten's content to talk about what he learned from Art Williams, one of the last of a dying breed of expert counterfeiters and the real-life central character of his book, The Art of Making Money.
Reared in a turbulent family where he was shuttled between an abusive father and mentally unstable mother, Williams' life was irrevocably changed at age 16 upon meeting an expert counterfeiter of U.S. currency bills, and his mother's boyfriend, in a man who dubbed himself "Da Vinci."
But unlike other criminal masterminds who counterfeit for profit alone, Kersten found that both Williams motivation and method of operation were personal, often bordering on ethical. After years spent perfecting a replica of the "1996 New Note" U.S. $100 bill and eventual imprisonment, Williams' criminal quest was more about redeeming and rebuilding a family life lost than "making" money.
When there is no money, it really threatens family connections and puts pressure on them in ways that people who grow up middle-class or upper-class cannot even conceive. Williams' first crime was robbing parking meters to get food. Anytime someone had money in his family there were people asking about it. It's almost a reductive quote, but without money people become animalistic. And once Williams perfected his counterfeit bill, it changed his relationship with all his family and friends. Suddenly they're vying to see who can go on a spending spree with him.
Now it's mostly kids with ink-jet scanners trying to pass bills off at McDonald's, with a lot of these cases tried in local courts. Guys like Art [Williams], who could defeat all the security measures are increasingly rare.
A guy like Bernie Madoff doesn't interest me. He's just a sort of raw, unbridled greed, and a mirror for greed in others. Guys like him are a dime a dozen. Art was never trying to get rich off his enterprise. He did it for his own sake, and was always aware that he wanted to get off of it. He had a code. He did not spend his money at mom-and-pop stores, he spent it at large chain stores and tried to keep it all [as] benign as possible.
To read the complete article, see: On the Money: Writer chronicles the dying breed of counterfeiter (www.sltrib.com/features/ci_12929637)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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