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Counterfeit Securities Need Not Resemble the Real Thing to Be Illegal
Description Appeals court held that a conviction for counterfeiting securities would stand despite the fact that the supposed issuer, J.P. Morgan, does not issue the kind of securities in question. The law is intended to cover any counterfeit security that might fool a person of ordinary sensibility.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Counterfeiting; Securities; Similarity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Prosperi, a Palm Beach, Florida attorney, represented Donovan's investments, which included Amaretto, a company organized in the Netherlands Antilles and owned by Donovan. According to the government, Prosperi began stealing millions from Donovan in 1987. He was convicted of various violations, including counterfeiting. He created counterfeit certificates of deposit (CDs) that purported to be from J.P. Morgan for the purpose of fooling Donovan. Prosperi appealed the conviction for counterfeiting. The trial judge acquitted him on that count, accepting his contention that the counterfeit CDs looked nothing like the real thing.
Decision Reversed. Conviction stands. The statue prohibiting the making or possessing of a counterfeit security does not require the counterfeits to be similar to genuine securities. It concerns "a document that purports to be genuine but is not, because it has been falsely made or manufactured in its entirety." This is a change from the common law, which had a requirement that counterfeit documents be similar to real documents. Under the statute, the counterfeit item "need only bear such likeness or resemblance to the genuine article as is calculated to deceive an honest, sensible and unsuspecting person of ordinary observation and care dealing with a person supposed to be upright and honest." The fact that J.P. Morgan does not issue CDs does not negate the conviction; Donovan has no reason to know that Morgan does not issue CDs. The ones made by Prosperi looked genuine.
Citation U.S. v. Prosperi, 201 F.3d 1335 (11th Cir., 2000)

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