In GQ magazine, Wells Tower talks to Frank Bourassa, one of the most prolific counterfeiters in American history who reproduced more than $200 million in twenty dollar bills. U.S. dollars are printed on rag paper comprised of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, and asking a paper mill to provide you with some is an easy way to get yourself raided by the Secret Service. Bourassa was able to convince a mill in Switzerland to help him:

In correspondence included in court documents that Frank shared with me, Maxwell told his mark that Keystone was looking to print bond certificates on secure rag paper—customized with one or two security measures designed to, um, foil counterfeiters. Frank says that after Artoz accepted the basics of his bond-brokerage story, he tweaked and refined his order over many months, nudging one felonious tidbit after another onto the papermaker’s plate. He got them to add linen to the recipe. He asked them to mix in chemicals to thwart security pens and black-light tests. He persuaded them to sew in a security strip reading, in near microscopic print, usa twenty. (“I told them it was, you know, for a $20 bond.”)

Artoz, he says, also agreed to imprint his paper with a watermark, an image etched into a cylindrical printing drum and pressed into the paper while the pulp is still wet. To get the equipment Artoz would need to do this, Frank paid $15,000, routed under a surrogate’s name through a Swiss bank account, to a company in Düren, Germany, that manufactured a drum etched with the likenesses of Andrew Jackson’s face. How did he manage that, exactly? “It was easy,” said Frank. “To you, he’s Andrew Jackson. To some guy in Germany, who the fuck is it? Some guy’s face. He doesn’t know.”

Read the story