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CBP Seizes $4.65M in "Hell Money"

Release Date: 
February 17, 2016

Thousands of fake $100 bills said to be used as burnt offerings to dead

DETROIT- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport announces, today, the seizure of $4,650,000 in Hell money printed to resemble U.S. and Vietnamese currency.

CBP officers seized counterfeit $4.65M printed on joss paper.

CBP officers seized counterfeit $4.65M printed on joss paper.

Hell money is printed on joss paper and resembles legal tender bank notes but is not legal tender or recognized currency; instead, Hell money is presented as burnt offerings to the deceased. This custom is often practiced in certain Asian cultures.

“Attempting to import any amount of counterfeit currency, regardless of the intended purpose, can have serious implications for arriving travelers,” said CBP Port Director Devin Chamberlain.  “Quality law enforcement work and solid attention to detail resulted in this seizure, and I am proud of the officers involved.”

The seizure occurred Feb. 12 after CBP officers encountered the couple who were arriving from Seoul, Korea.  Each person made conflicting statements about the amount of currency they were carrying. CBP officers referred the couple for a baggage examination.  A search of their luggage resulted in the discovery of 93 bundles of counterfeit U.S. $100 bills and 32 bundles of counterfeit Vietnamese Dong, the national currency of Vietnam.  The couple said the counterfeit currency was to be used as burnt offerings to the deceased.

CBP reminds international travelers that the manufacturing of, or importation of counterfeit Federal Reserve notes could result in federal charges.  

Agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Secret Service took custody of the fake currency.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017